Kjetil Mannheim talks his time in 80s Black Metal band MAYHEM, avant-garde composing, new ORDER release ‘The Gospel’, and how everything turns out alright in the end…

Kjetil ‘Mannheim’ was the original drummer of MAYHEM during the phase that culminated in the legendary Deathcrush EP of 1987. Now, that release was a real beast of a recording, and somewhat ahead of its time – sharing both the soundscape values of hardcore punk and extreme metal, Euronymous’ and Necrobutcher’s angular and cold riffs were unlike anything else you would hear at the time, and with Mannheim’s stop / start dirge-into-blasting arrangements, it became something of a trademark sound for the band. So, Kjetil definitely has true Norwegian BM ‘form’, no doubt about that. And after a few years out doing real-life things, he returned to metal music again in 2015 with new band ORDER – so far offering 2017’s excellent Lex Amientie and the soon to be released 2021 album The Gospel, which we can assure you is a solid slab of throwback Mayhem-esque BM with a healthy C.Frostian feel. Yep it sounds like the darkest years of the 80s alright, with some great lyrics and a fresh attitude, and that’s sweet music to my ears, how about you? Well, we’re hoping to see this band live at some point, but in the meantime we can only ask – how does it feel, for Kjetil, to be back doing this? Thanks to Steffie of Listenable Records, France, for hooking us up with the man himself, so he can tell you all about it…

Hi Kjetil, well I guess we can see Order as a way of tying together the past and the present? How does it feel to be back? Care to give us a short explanation of what’s going on, who is involved, for new readers?

Hi Scott. Yes, I guess you can put that way. It feels great to be back. I never left the music scene, but I had been away from making new metal music for over twenty years, when we started to work on ORDER. It felt very much like coming home. I have two musical passions, if I can put it that way, one is metal and the other is experimental music. In retrospect there’s no doubt that spent too much time on the latter, and starting making metal music again felt fulfilling.

We started off with Anders Odden on guitar, Rene Jansen on bass, Billy Messiah on vocals and myself on drums. It was Anders idea to see if we could make something interesting by combining the musical traditions we represented in early Norwegian black metal and death metal. I liked the idea and for some reason I also had time to explore it this time. So we got together in 2013 and immediately got the right feel. Sadly Rene got sick and died quite early in the project, and we had to rethink it all. Luckily we decided to continue ORDER and got Stu Manx to join us. For you readers he is probably best known for his years in Gluecifer. He has a different style than Rene, but that was just how it should be. ORDER is four different musicians that when put together has its distinct expression. I think this is what makes a band interesting.

I have been a bit old and lazy and didn’t even know you’d already recorded the full length Lex Amientie in 2017. Holy shit, there is some great Celtic Frost riffing on there. How was it received? And how do you think this new release The Gospel differs?

Thx. I believe Lex Amentiae is a great album with some good songs it. We got good reviews and the songs was well received by fans. If we should compare the two albums I will say that Lex Amentiae is a taste of what we could achieve with ORDER. A step on the creative road that still very much lied ahead of us. The Gospel is on a different level in my opinion. First, it is a concept album, while Lex Amentiae is a collection of songs. Second, it is an album that represent what we aspired to with ORDER. In my opinion The Gospel is a very strong album where we open ourselves up without any restrictions or reservations, musically and lyrics wise. With this album we managed to dig deep and submit ourselves to our emotions and creative forces that drives us. I hope, and believe, people will feel it when they listen to the album.

Recording studios must have changed a fair bit over the years?

Indeed. Today you can set up your rehearsal studio to also be the recording studio and record everything as you go. It opens up for smaller bands to spend as much time in the studio as the big names with backing from big labels has, which is a good thing in my opinion. And everything has become cheaper and easier. I love how a creative soul can realize his or her vision from a one room apartment.

With ORDER we have the luxury of rehearsing in our own studio today. I can’t even imagine what the making and recording of The Gospel would have costed us in late 80ies, but it would have been a fortune.

Well, you were drumming for Mayhem in Norway about the same time I was going to see Napalm Death and Disorder in England. Disorder even moved to Oslo! To my ears, a lot of BM continued the progression of hardcore punk, it seemed perfect to me…but not everyone agrees with the punk label, not even some music journalists…what were you thinking at the time?

It is always difficult to try to make a line of progression in music, because the influences are so many and the lines between what inspires and influence and the things you make are so intricate and entwined. A tree grows from one base and progress into many branches. This is often used to illustrate how things develop from a common spring. But I believe this is too simplified. Culture doesn’t develop in this way. Instead of a tree to illustrate how music progress we should use the forest. All trees in a forest is connected through their root systems, just like all music is connected in some way. You are absolutely right about hardcore punk and early black metal. We loved and still love that stuff.

Well, it had to be in here….

I had to comb through Necrobutcher’s book again ( one of the best on the BM scene ) to find out how your relationship with Mayhem ended. His explanation was a little sensational! But I guess we change a lot in our teens, and there was a point in that period when you decided you’d had enough of that scene?

I haven’t had the opportunity to read it so don’t know how Necro describes my departure in his book. But I felt for moving on. In my opinion, and as have said in many interviews over the time, it was not obvious that Mayhem had a future at the time I left. I just decided to move on, it wasn’t about being fed up or done or anything. It was a decision to explore other things. Øystein was pissed at first, which I understood. He had ambitions for the band and felt I failed him and the band by leaving. But we sorted it out and stayed good friends until he died.

What did you learn from playing with Mayhem, and do you think it contributed to any of your success in later life?

I believe I learned during these years that if I followed my own convictions and trusted my own creativeness regardless of what people said or thought about it, I would find satisfaction and happiness. Of course we had our own way all of us when we started Mayhem, but the Mayhem years defined us in many ways as much as we defined Mayhem. This confidence and courage to follow my inner voice and narrow paths has been very good to have later in life.

There are some great photos of you, from back in the day, in quite a few books…you all look such nice young gentlemen! I guess the notoriety of those days hasn’t had a negative impact on your career?

Thank you. I don’t know if it has had any negative impact, if so I haven’t noticed it. Of course I have met some people over the years, also professionally, who find it difficult to accept my musical background, but mostly people take me for what I am, a complex person with many different interests and capacities. You find people with prejudices everywhere. Among metal fans also, who find it difficult that one can both be active in business and as a metal musician. It’s not just people in business who find it difficult to understand that musicians can be good at doing business. Fortunately I seldom meet them. Most people I have met in life have only good things to say about Mayhem and to my other musical projects over the years, including ORDER.

And you work in business now?

Right now I work in a IT consultancy agency. You can say my business life has developed aligned with the progress of the internet. I have been working with internet technology and business development since the mid 90ies in marketing, technology development and with startups.

People our age often say that they expected things to keep progressing from the 80s onwards, and it is a surprise to them that these old music scenes are so big with young people today. Did you foresee a ‘comeback’ in your 50s?

Haha, no I didn’t. I remember Necro and I talking about whether we would pass our thirtieth birthday or not, so just coming past the age of fifty is beyond our expectations. I do not think of ORDER as a comeback, though. I never stopped making music. I was just not doing metal.

You kept up your drumming / musicianship – did you play in other bands, or play other kinds of music, perhaps?

Yes. During the years just after Mayhem I was personally in a very dark place. But things got better and I was able to follow my passion for experimental and Avant Garde music. I’ve been doing many noise collaborations, mostly lice performances but with Maranata a noise duo, I also released an album called Total Repair. Together with Conrad Schnitzler I worked with Big Robot and released a couple of albums and did a impro performance you can watch on Youtube

Is black metal, to you, a conservative, traditionalist movement reacting against an overly-liberal society? Or is it a liberal movement reacting against an overly conservative, traditionalist society?

It is a liberal movement reacting against an overly conservative, traditionalist society. It is about exercising free will and fight the dogmatic religious and conservative people who wants to direct and restrict how we live our lives. This is what it means to me still. If you read the lyrics on Rise from our new album you will see that it still is a big part of what we want to say.

There is a personal message on this new album?

The title The Gospel refers to a message, yes. All songs except from the title track is about the pain and struggle that comes form being human. A pain in which we cannot separate us from without loosing ourselves. It is universal among humans to have these feelings of pain and suffering and feeling alone on our journey through life. If we take this dimension away from our lives living becomes a numb experience. The pain is real and we have to live to endure this part of human existence. The Gospel title has a double meaning. The title track is not about human suffering. The song The Gospel tells a true story of its own, a gospel.

Are you going to play any gigs? I would like to hear stuff from the last two albums live.

Yes, we will go on a Norway tour in October and we have confirmed a three city tour in Poland in 2022. We hope to book more gigs in 2022 but acknowledge that it is difficult since most of the 2022 program is just 2020 postponed. Hopefully we will be able to do many shows in Europe, at least next year.

If you could go back in time, what would you say to yourself?

I would have said, “keep on doing the thing you’re doing. It will be great”

Last words for the fans….

I want to thank everyone who spend time and energy on what we do. I don’t take anything for granted and I truly appreciate that people give us attention. I hope fans will love our new album as much as I do myself and that they will recognise the openness and directness we have tried to express, Last I hope that I will be able to perform The Gospel live for you all.

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