Kittil Kittilsen conducted by Jan F. Lindsř in 2007
The legendary Norwegian thrash metal band Vomit just recently released a compilation and therefore I think that this interview is perfect timing for a rather long chat with founding ex-member Kittil Kittilsen. Even though Kittil used to be a part of this scene a time ago, he is now religious and consider himself as due with the metal scene, at the same time he also has some interesting views about the organized Christianity that mainly is controlled by government. Keep on reading...
Hi Kittil, and thanks for letting us interview you. I suspect our readers wonder what you’re up to these days. Is music still an important part of your life?
I work as a painter and carpenter and I’m happily married with three kids. I must confess that I’m not really that interested in music that I used to be. When I listen to music, I play mostly classical music and some Christian music. However, there is a very small portion of Christian music on the market that I like. Apart from listening to music, I also sing in old people’s homes in a choir from time to time.
We cannot avoid mentioning your participation in Norway’s perhaps most famous and most widely debated black metal band, Mayhem. It’s a great step from where you were then to where you are today. How do you look back at your time in Mayhem? What made you make the decision you made?
I wasn’t there for a very long period of time. It’s getting close to 20 years since I was with them. A lot of sewage has run into the ocean since that time… I recall that I had shaved off both of my eyebrows when we took our band pictures. I had a somewhat neurotic relationship to the shaving razor at that time.
Looking back at the time with Vomit and Mayhem, I remember it as relatively monotone. You see, very few people liked our music back then. We spent hours and hours in the practicing room in the weekends, but not much else happened, other than practicing, practicing, more practicing and a lot of drinking.
My time in Mayhem was short and I haven’t written a single line or tune while in that band. So my participation there was relatively insignificant.
You ask what made me make the choice I made. Well, that’s a long story. But let me emphasize this one thing first: I had no plans of becoming a Christian. To me becoming a Christian was the most ridiculous things that could happen to a poor person, and I hated the whole Christianity from what I could understand and observe with my own eyes. Becoming a Christian was totally out-of-the-question thing until one beautiful day I was talked into going to a Biblestudy. There I met a small group of Christians who had a story to tell that drove me into a deeper investigation of what this was all about.
In doing this I received insight in what had happened through William Branham’s ministry in the 50’s and 60’s, and then the whole story about Jesus Christ was rolled out in front of me in a completely different light. The things I learned fully convinced me.
Let me go back to your statement where you say that “it’s a long step from there to where I am now.”
I do not believe it’s such a long step after all. You see, the Christianity they introduced me to was not the one I had imagined in my mind for many years… It was entirely different; namely the original one! And soon I could see that the most common accusations against Christianity from its hardest critics and haters are quite appropriate.
I came from one extreme to another. The distance between these two extremes is not as great as one would expect. You see, as a metal-rocker I was able to se the Christian faith very clearly because I didn’t carry any religious ballast. I hadn’t been brainwashed by any religious doctrines. I only had the most common prejudices, so when I started to read the Bible and about Branham, the picture became crystal clear.
I have later experienced that it is almost hopeless to obtain this clarity for many Christians who have grown up with semented doctrines; no matter how much they have strayed from the teachings of the Bible, they are not capable of seeing it because the churches they are stuck in place their understanding higher than God’s own words.
The point is: What does the Bible say about the thing? If you go real deep in the matter of the New Testament you will see that Jesus Himself rebukes all kinds of self righteous, religious leaders, calling them everything from “snakes in the grass” to “children of Satan”, “hypocrites” and “white washed tombs” etc.
You will also see clearly that Jesus’ way of dealing with people is not at all like most Christians in the western world do. We have all had Jehova’s Witnesses on our doorstep, or we’ve met some strange people with wild stares in town who really want to hand us a tract or something. We also see these TV-preachers in all their splendour practically begging for money in such a low-down fashion that will make even The Beagle Boys blush.
This phenomenon is often seen in the so-called charismatic Christianity. Things happen there in the name of Jesus that scare people away from the Christian faith, things that very seldom have anything to do with the faith of the Bible. In my opinion, this is very easy to see if you just study the original Christianity and compare it with what the different churches practice today.
What did Jesus, Peter and Paul do? They went out and preached the Gospel just as radical and raw that it ought to be served. And if noone received them, they simply shook the dust off their feet and went another way.
They never tried to shove their faith down somebody’s throat. Neither did they beg anyone for money. The never made any organization with priests, and they never ever involved a state power like the government in the faith. No, all the time it was individuals who made up their minds on their own choosing. They never cut anyone’s heads off to force their faith on people.
I am convinced that the Christian faith does not have a political power agenda, but that it has an individual agenda. And if my claim is correct, it would be wrong to say that Christianity is discriminating or that is robs people of their individual liberty.
Yes, it may happen when religion is adopted into politics and receives a power structure. However, you cannot find anything in the Bible that supports organizing the Christian faith as it has been done most places. Christianity is for those who have been called to It, and those who are called are also liberated in the sense that they receive wisdom and strength to do what is right for them. This is liberty in the correct sense of the word: Individual liberty. But it starts with a personal defeat and a basic acknowledgement of the fact that you’re in serious need of help.
Things started to go seriously wrong for Christianity as such when the old Roman Empire went under a few centuries after Christ; these guys created a state system based on the Christian religion and adopted a lot of the old Roman pagan rituals into this new kind of Christianity. This produced a terror regime that held Europe in its slimy hands for over 1000 years, the so called Dark Ages. In the name of Christianity they killed millions of people in the most bestial ways. We also see a lot of this state/church system in organized Christianity today. Knowing this by studying history and the Bible, I began to realize more clearly that the major part of today’s Christianity is on collision course with the Bible and the original faith and doctrine.
I heard a story that I had never heard before, and I didn’t believe it was true, because my head was full of all the prejudices and wrong impressions that very many people have against Christianity. You can imagine the surprise when for the first time in my life I sat down to read the Bible, with relatively objective eyes.
My first reaction was anger rather than disappointment. Not because of black metal rockers, atheists, humanists or whatever, but because of organized Christianity! As time went on I came to find out that they do not take the Bible seriously, preferring their traditions within their safe boundaries.
When you read the Bible and see the kind of language that is used in the New Testament, it is striking how perfectly it fits into the religious situation of today. Jesus, in the gospel of St. Matthew, rebuked the scribes and the pharisees. He calls them hypocrites, serpent seed and children of Satan. Remember, he rebuked the religious leaders of that time, and all you have to do is transfer those words to the scribes and pharisees of our time.
The religious hypocrisy is enormous, and Satan exists in his most sublime expression inside the so called Christian sphere. In my opinion the systems are wrong, and I believe they ought to take much of the blame for the hatred against Christianity. The people in the systems are mostly sincere, I believe, but I also believe that many of them are not conscious enough of what the systems really do; that they place themselves above the Word of God, thereby creating a religious system that is governed by human wisdom and philosophy.
Let me say this. If you want to do optimal damage to Christianity, playing black metal music is not the most effective way to go. If you really want to be metal and damage Christianity as much as possible, you should join the Socialist Left Party (SV) or the Labour Party (AP) and the Church of Norway. There’s where the most damaging work against Christianity is being done in Norway today.
The Christian faith has only one credible foundation, the Bible. The Bible tells us how to live like a believer, and how to make a group of believers function as a Christian church. Today, we see that priests, bishops and politicians are doing whatever they can to destroy this foundation for the people – in fact, they are operating in a deep darkness where not even the worst black metal band can descend.
One of my great favourites in the old days was Slayer. I remember when “Reign In Blood” was released in ’87 – we went completely bananas – it was the best we had ever heard. I followed Slayer until my life was turned upside down, and what struck me most was that this band pointed to a lot of things within Christianity, and it made me wonder where they had received their insight from.
When Slayer and other bands attack organized religion and religious hypocrisy I understand them very well. If they could only stop and take a deep breath and study what John the baptist and Jesus say about religious hypocrisy they would have been surprised. Jesus associated with people who the religious leaders looked down on; tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes and everything that could walk and crawl in the lowest layers of society.
No situation was too degraded or hopeless. And that is still true today! People forget that the first Christians consisted of a lot of expelled people, like slaves and prostitutes etc. For the first time in their lives they received something they had never before experienced; namely human worth. Human worth in the sense that here stood a guy and preached that all humans are equally worth in God’s sight. Preaching such things was relatively absurd in an age where slavery was very common.
This is an important point to make today, when people look at Christianity as a bourgeois thing that is unreachable for most people. And if you do not meet the bourgeois wall you will find the charismatic group of Christianity so wild in its expression that it would scare away anyone trying to seek an alternative in the myriad of churches.
I also believe that many get a negative impression of the Christian faith because of the media. But also because there are many people who experience meeting professing Christians who preach their faith to them in a way that makes them hate.
Take Marilyn Manson for instance. He grew up in a so called Christian home where his parents preached to him so much about hell that the poor kid got big problems. One day when he was in his father’s or grandfather’s basement (I don’t remember the details – I read an interview of him once) he found a lot of hard core pornography that these fire and brimstone preachers had enjoyed themselves with between the sermons about fire and hell. Is it really so strange that the man went berserk as we say in Norway?
I hope the readers are catching my point; that there is a vast difference between the expression that is conveyed officially of Christianity, and the original practicing of Christianity. I received insight into this original practice through the life and preaching of William Branham. Among many things he proved how Satan operates within the realms of Christianity in the most subtle ways. Then I saw the real cause for the hatred towards Christianity. The New Testament is so full of this subject. Check it out yourself! St. Pauls letter to the Thessalonians, 2. Peter and the gospel according to St. Matthew is a good beginning.
What made me make the decision that I made was a self realization that completely wiped out the old me. And this happened when I was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. If anyone thinks it’s a formal thing that you do only to feel like a better person, he is completely wrong. It is the most delicate expression there is to give up oneself and your own ego. It is a foundational capitulation and a spiritual suicide. When you enter into this self realization totally naked and all alone without any external stimulations of any kind, you experience awe in a totally different dimension. To be so utterly broken and unclothed is something I never thought was possible.
I saw that I had been separated from something that really had been living inside of me all the time. I saw, and I see it just as clearly now, that the old Kittil was nothing but a hypocrite. It was a terrible discovery since I was so deeply involved in death and black metal music. First and foremost on the private level; I listened to big doses of metal and I embraced and digested the lyrics with a bestial appetite. This brought me deeper and deeper into a black, meaningless and destructive pit that finally left me totally disillusioned. Everything became destructive, utterly destructive. I crawled into a corner of self obsession and I couldn’t even think clearly. This was a state of mind that I had evolved over many years, something that finally reached its most extreme expression just before I met the Lord.
When I saw what the Bible said, and when I saw that the same thing had happened in modern time, and when adding the many great experiences I had gone through myself; being delivered from fear, depression, nervous problems, addiction etc., I was simply convinced. And when I was convinced about this being the Truth, I gave my entire life to Jesus Christ.
I have no prestige in my Christian faith; if the truth is that life is pointless and that we descend from the apes I am willing to give everything for that and immediately start giving out bananas on the street. I do not care what people think about what I do. I am only going after one thing, and that is Truth – nothing else. Until this very day I have never heard one single argument that can prove that the things that happened in the ministry of William Branham were wrong, and I have never found the Bible to be wrong at any point either.
So the choice was an easy one for me after a while, and I haven’t regretted it for one second. Neither do I miss anything from the old life. And all the music I once used to play is to me a distant, bad dream, and I’m happy as a lark that I don’t have to listen to it anymore.
What was your impression of the guitarist at that time, Řystein Aarseth, and your successor and vocalist Per Ohlin? Are you still in touch with any of the remaining band members?
Řystein was a real idealist. He gave his all for what he believed in. I didn’t know him very well the last years of his life when churches were burning and things took off, but I met him just before he was killed, and then he wanted me to try and start up Vomit again (the version where we were a trio). He seemed very eager and full of ideas, just like I have always remembered him.
I remember when Řystein heard the Residents for the first time in Nittedal at that time I sang with Mayhem. I had borrowed some obscure music from my elderly brother, among the records were Duck Stab with The Residents. We played it for Řystein, and the first time he heard “Bach is dead”, and “Birthday Boy” he simply took off and he got himself the largest Residents collection of us all…
I only met Per a few times, and I remember wondering about what kind of guy he was. I tried to show him something on one of the songs, and when he grabbed the mike and started singing I really started to wonder. He sang kind of strange. But years later, after his death, I heard a recording by him, and then I thought that his vocal was the best I had ever heard in that genre.
I’m not in touch with anyone from the band today.
Have you taken a stand against both Mayhem and the rest of this genre? Or are there exceptions? Maybe you know any bands in the metal genre that are based on more positive values. Let me give you a couple of clues; bands like Extol and Drottnar, the Swedish band, Pantokrator and the Australian band, Horde.
Yes, you could say that. Everything I’ve told in this interview is my personal experience. To be honest, all that kind of music made me sick – I was trapped in a darkness that to me was very unpleasant to be in. It blackened my mind and made me very depressed and self obsessed.
However, that doesn’t mean that I look on people in the metal genre as fools – had it not been for God pulling me out I would still have been there. It was not my own choosing – I did not have any plans becoming a Christian – I wanted to be a metal star with all my heart.
It took a long time before I fully understood how all this music had influenced my life – and I’m not only talking about metal anno the 90’s – I was a total slave of various genres of heavy music from the age of 10 to 28. I started with KISS when I was 10, and from then on I listened to music with the volume turned to max as often as possible. It shaped me from then on, and the music with its ever increasing speed and aggression did me no good. This I came to find out after awhile.
But my objective for telling people what has happened to me, is not to try to tell about all the bad persons and bands in the metal scene; I find most of the people there genuine and honest. The main reason for me to let me being interviewed is to point at the Christian rockmusic and the organized Christianity that after my opinion betrays people and drive them away from the truth and the real way.
I do not know of any other bands in the metal genre. The simple reason is that I never listen to that kind of music, neither does it interest me.
As many of our readers know you never participated in any of Mayhem’s records. Did you participate in any other official happenings with Mayhem? If so, could you tell us a little bit about this?
When I was playing in the band we had plans going on a tour in Italy, but it came to naught.
What do you personally think is the reason that people – mostly youth – are drawn into this dark and so called destructive underground genre they say black metal is? What was it that attracted you?
It is not very easy to answer that question, for everyone have their own experience of these things. All lives are so different, but I can only answer based on my own experience.
Many people grow up in relatively sad homes with a lot of emptiness. When you’re fed with a reality based on tabloid trash in the form of magazines, newspapers and TV, where everything is meaningless in the end, and without a deeper meaning to life, it is not strange at all that many young people seek to the underground, to music or whatever it may be.
We live in a culture that creates fear and depression in a historically unique scale. I understand why people are drawn to metal, because it pumps out a lot of the anger and despair people accumulate due to this ridiculous theatre of meaningless humbug that the society feeds us with.
I was attracted to hard music very early in life as I mentioned, and the reason was that I found a response to the rage inside me in the music. I was angry on life’s meaninglessness, because I lacked an identity, and this was followed by fear.
After a while, as blackmetal grew to become a great phenomenon in the world, I was strongly attracted to it because the music gave me a brand new and much more extreme expression than I had before, because of its speed and the mood it carried with it, all this giving me a powerful satisfaction. But I also believe that some of the reason was that portions of the lyrics reflected a kind of spiritual understanding. Things become more explosive all of a sudden then…
I believe that all human beings have an indwelling thirst for something that can satisfy a hunger that comes from our innermost depths. But when the world around us present to us a perception of reality that is incapable of quieting this hunger, it’s logical that people feeling a great need inside to find something that can meet it, are drawn out towards extreme darkness.
Mayhem is perhaps the most famous band you played in, but you also played in Kvikksřlvguttene and Vomit. Could you tell us a little bit about these bands and your role in them?
I was in Vomit from the start to the end. We started in 1983, I think, and kept it going until ’88 or ’89. I think we had other names before Vomit, a name we adopted in ’85. We were 3 in the beginning, and we played old heavy metal songs. After a while Tommy joined us, and we started listening to Metallica, Venom and Slayer.
The all time high was “Rot in Hell” from ’87. Slayer and Celtic Frost was a great source of inspiration.
Tommy was the creative guy in the band at that time, and he wrote all the songs, while Lars and Torben wrote the odd riff. I played the base. After releasing the demo we kicked Tommy out and became a trio. I started singing, and we wrote the songs together, but much simpler ones this time. It was in this period we recorded the other demo, “Bloodshed”.
We had a concert as a trio shortly after kicking out Tommy, and it was legendary. We were scheduled to play in Skjetten together with another heavy band we knew from earlier on; Empire. (They later changed their name to Babel Fish). And when it was our turn to enter the stage, we let loose with glowing fuzz boxes and the volume turned all the way up. It was incredible; the building was full of people when we went on stage, and after one and a half song only 5 or 6 people were left. It was Řystein Aarseth and a guy from Nittedal who stood in front of the stage headbanging and having a great time, and Tommy Berg (the guy we hade fired) and a friend of his that sat a few rows back crying over how miserable we had become. The rest of the audience literally ran out.
That was the first and last Vomit concert where I did the vocals.
After this we became rather disillusioned, since noone liked our music, and especially Torben was sick and tired of blisters and cracked drumskins. We had a small period where Tommy joined us in Lars’ stead. We gave a shot at some Slayer and Napalm death songs before we were kicked out from the practicing location where we played. It was in some guy’s basement – after a while he became fed up of his house shaking when we played our music – he sat in his living room with earplugs hoping the nightmare would soon be over.
So, with this overwhelming response in our luggage, we returned to the bomb room where we had practiced earlier, and there Lars joined us again, and we swapped instruments and started “Břrre og Blřderne” (“Břrre and the Bleeders”). We had a couple of legendary concerts before Tommy and Lars quit the band. Torben and I kept Blřderne going a couple more years together with two other guys before the band dissolved. Later I played together with Tommy in a progrock band in Oslo and Copenhagen. It ended in ’91.
Kvikksřlvguttene was started by Torben from Vomit, Jřrn from Mayhem and me in 1996. It was Řystein who wanted me to try and gather the Vomit version with me as vocalist, and that was the biggest reason for the initiative. We recorded a single and a cd, and we had plans for some concerts, but it didn’t happen.
Vomit recently released a compilation CD. Do you have anything to do with this release? Can you tell us a little about “Still rotting”, and your relation to it?
I have nothing to do with the Vomit-release, and hadn’t heard about it until you told me. What I know is that it contains pretty much everything we recorded, and I haven’t heard “Bloodshed” since it was recorded sometime in 87, and hence a lot of striving, I wasn’t able to get my hands on it while we where doing Kvikksřlvguttene, as I planning on using a song from it. I guess it was copied in very limited copies. To be honest I’ve only seen this record on picture, so I don’t have much to say about it.
Do you keep yourself updated with happenings in the Norwegian metal world these days? If so, what bands do you listen to and what is it about these bands that catch your attention?
No, I don’t pay much attention, but once in a while I drop by a kiosk and thumb through various metal magazines to see if I find anyone I know…
With your background from Mayhem and your religious standpoint today, what do you think about Christian musicians who use black and death as a wrapping for the ”good News”, i.e. their Christian faith?
I think they’re completely off the mark. I cannot seriously understand how they even manage to do it. They have missed the target completely. I mean, if you want to be a Christian, be it with all you’ve got, and if you want to be metal, be it with all you’ve got. If those people really took their faith seriously, and followed the instructions of the One they profess to believe in, they would never be found in a context like that. They are on collision course with Christian life and teaching.
I say this because of my own experience, and because of what is written in the Bible; rockmusic, metalmusic has nothing at all to do in a Christian setting!
Many metal fans are of the opinion that Christians should ”not be allowed” to use the black metal esthetics musically since they do not inherit this evil and perhaps misantropic trait that many people say is necessary in order to be convincing as black metal musicians. What is your opinion on this matter?
I totally agree!
Thank you for the interview! Now you have the opportunity to say what you have on your heart concerning what you have already told.
I don’t have anything special in mind, except that I’m hoping that this will make a few check out what’s in the dept of the original Christian faith before hating it and working against it.
Especially I suggest reading about William Branham – there is a lot of information about him on the net.
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