Saturday, November 29, 2008

Killl Interview

Killl is another Norwegian oddity that – apart from lush namedropping – has crude music to offer. What is also interesting is the refusal to put out any music in conserved form other than the dvd format, given the possibility to visually enhance it. Given this, it was refreshing to share Are's views on metal and its neighbors, high-flown aesthetics and a no-frills approach.

What was so attractive about the thought of abandoning your former bands - some like JR Ewing with a strong reputation and probably having been about to break through - for a project that does neither release albums nor follows any interest to find a label? Also, you play a type of music which to describe as "uncommercial" is still put mildly...
Killl was something that happened on the side of our other projects, not instead of. Some of us have moved on to other bands, some still work with their longtime bands. KILLL was formed on request by a promoter who listened to our drummer Martin talking about the idea. We were booked to play a festival in Oslo based on sheer trust, and we all met at first to take a picture for the program. Most of us knew each other, but we were all busy in different projects and saw the concert as a one-off affair. All the tracks were made in some three days.

Since then, most of our concerts and tours have been based on requests, such as the Norwegian tour when we were invited to expand the visual elements of our show, which now is a crucial part of the experience. The composing of tracks follow the same gung-ho approach; anything else would be too time-consuming and make Kill a too demanding project given we are all busy with other bands and activities

Most of us are central in organizing our other bands (a total of some 14 bands), so Killl is very different, much more democratic and fast - no dwelling on complex ideas. Anytime we have tried that, it has lost in favor of simplicity.

When KILLL was started, it was a way for us to leave our musical habits behind and do something else. It is still an experiment as far as Iam concerned. Part of that is the setup: There are no amps on stage, the drummer plays an electronic kit, and we run all the sources through my mixer, opening up for primitive use of effects and – quite often – silence. The music is made to be played live, a studio record would be completely awkward. Which is why we are releasing a dvd, not a record.

What is your conception of Jazz as opposed to conservative notions about the genre (the American songbook, swing and bop). Do you follow the different currents of contemporary jazz or are you, after all, subscribed to the standards and classics?
The jazz parallel is not really relevant given only one of us has ever been playing jazz.

Do you think - also with respect to the meticulous divisions into "sub-scenes" - that rock/metal and jazz have something in common? Isn't it - on the other hand - rather impossible to reconcile jazz and rock/metal because the free-form- and improvisational approaches per se contradict the thorough compositional principles of popular music?
Yes, very much, and it does not stop there, of course. Basically though, I am more interested in attitude and methodology than genre tags. For example, I don´t really like the Naked City version of jazz and metal fusion. To me it´s still oil and water, it is jazz-informed minds introducing metal elements into an essentially open-ended jazz form - which is jazz nevertheless and not a problem in itself; I just do not appreciate the use of humor. It only underlines the “we know what we are doing” attitude, which is so far from the metal attitude. The metal attitude is about doing ridiculous things without any shame, only occasional insight and brutal energy. Metal is escapist music for the working class, theater for the poor, anger with no address.

Equally problematic is the opposite: musicians all of a sudden “dumbing down” and turning true, gentrifying their t-shirt and record collection to a mint condition grimness, as if they never listened to hip hop or pop. I´m interested in music where the fusing or transcending of genres happens as a consequence of following ideas and experimentation - from whatever limited set of tools you have. Maybe that is why I tend to enjoy bands who are moving from metal into other genres more than the other way around. Experimental black metal moving into ambient and electronic through experimentation with duration and noise textures, death metal moving into frantic free-jazz via the fascination of complex drumming and lightning speed riffs, doom metal moving into minimalism and physical sound through adoration of bass, sustained notes and volume... and equally much, musicians where metal references are nothing but a starting point for an ongoing exploration, such as James Plotkin, Mick Barr and Justin Broadrick.

Given that metal and rock are allegedly popular music styles (I mean, fans even complain if bands do not play guitar solos live the same way they can be heard on studio albums), do you want to break out of pop by stressing the jazz in Killl?
What has been a weird experience with Killl is how easy it comes across to people from all over the place. It is strange how we got an audience through not trying. If it is because of the lights and backdrop, the music or the combination, is hard to say. The unusual aesthetic surrounding and the music do force the audience to reconsider the relationship between the two, maybe making it easier for people to approach it. I really don´t know.

Anyone who has heard Fenriz of Darkthrone Deejay - which he actually did for our first gig - knows that there is no contradiction between having an open musical mind and making specialized music. The semiotic juggling of genre tags is very boring. The use of musical tools from all corners of experience is very natural. Killl does not claim to have anything dramatically new to contribute. We have simply said no to a few dominant elements of these genres, such as the inverted catholic aesthetic, and included a tad of electronics. The rest is very basic, bordering on primitive use of compositional ideas.

Why the three "lll", and brash and blunt choice of band name, which evokes images of nothing but violent (metal?) music rather than sophisticated and allegedly "intellectual" avant-garde stuff?
Musically and visually, Killl incorporates a lot of binary and contrasting action: on-off, hi-low, loud-quiet, short-long, clean-distorted, composed-improvised, bright-dark, color-no color. KILLL was the first and most simple word we grabbed that embodied this type of “no”. Visually there are no curves in it, which is a hint at the digital instruments in our music. The third L is a greeting to our Swedish neighbours in Gothenburg as well as a welcoming to our fifth member, Kyrre, the man behind the lights.

What are your aims with Killl, considering the refusal to act within the common realms of music publishing, advertising and so on?
Again, there is no agenda from our part to pitch ourselves as anti anything, but by not subscribing to the noise of a music market in painful transition we can allow Killl to be a rare yet semi-cyclic event where we can do something we do not do elsewhere. We appreciate people coming out for it but we don´t ask pretty please. There is enough hustling in our other jobs.

Does an artist's aesthetic narcissism ("I have something unique to say musically and will do anything to get it out!") have to outweigh his personal narcissism ("oh look, I am a musician with glossy long hair - please love me!") to create something permanently relevant?
As much as I am a sucker for mythology, be it black metal or Egyptian, I have always felt that the most dangerous music does not need theater - it is terrifying in itself. On the other hand, music is ritual and ritual is visual. The combination of the two becomes ritual with relevance, a rare commodity these days. As author and philosopher Joseph Campbell would say, we are in a time where Christianity has monopolized ritual and we are stuck with an aesthetic not representing the times we live in. Not to say that this was a conscious take on that, but when light man Kyrre developed the stage show we are using today together with me, we wanted to explore an aesthetic that cultivated the rgb color logic of led-lighting - very un-metal. We made a 20 x 4 meters backdrop to frame the stage we play at and create a consistent look for all venues. The colors of the patterns on the backdrop are calibrated to be as close to the rgb color temperature as possible. Switching on and off series of quick color changes, the leds animate the patterns of the backdrop by turning “on and off” colors. The result is a simple but effective optical phenomenon of moving patterns causing occasional nausea. Each song of the set has a different color code, and the concert takes you through everything form one color modes to the full spectrum stroboscopic shebang.

Originality: I am sure all artists feels their music is very relevant, and there is definitely a difference between ambition - which is personal - and result, which is for all. Therefore, when one in addition knows how to evaluate work changes over time, it becomes obvious that pinpointing the relevance of music is only possible after time has passed, especially when it comes to ones own music. Personally, I am not bothered by the thought that KilllL is tossed out with the trash in the future music canon. I am having too much fun doing it, and that is my only aim... Less so with other work I do, which I think goes for all of us.

In return, can you imagine that metal and rock with trivial lyrical subjects and "primitive" musical substance can outlast time, also with respect to the relative youth of the genres?
Easily - if not, I would be a snob. I can get moved by anything that deals with the human condition, basically. Most experimental music is polished formalism, which I enjoy, but it is definitely more a spice than food. Experimentation is no endpoint in itself, it´s a constant reminder, reassessing and reestablishing of the dearest things, the basics. Killl is not a negation of the other music we have done; it´s a cleaning up of the tool box, a cold shower followed by a good drink, a celebration of music in crude form.

1 comment:

Matt said...

"It only underlines the “we know what we are doing” attitude, which is so far from the metal attitude. The metal attitude is about doing ridiculous things without any shame, only occasional insight and brutal energy."

That's one of the smartest things anyone's ever said about metal.