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Call me an angry old school man of the world, 
but I can't continuously read stuff online 
without getting frustrated and pissed off… 
I tend to enjoy a book or a magazine that still 
smells like a book or a magazine. 
What does an online book smell like?”

Sven-Erik Kristiansen, better known to the world by the memorable (and sometimes apt) pseudonym ‘Maniac’ is a man with a long and notable CV. Growing up in an isolated village in the mountains of Telemark, some 200km or so from Norway’s capital city, his first forays into music were captured via a delicately-titled solo project entitled Septic Cunts, the 1986 demo cassette of which was demented enough for Mayhem’s Euronymous to offer an invitation into the band.

An appearance on the band’s now legendary Deathcrush EP followed, and Maniac would return to the band as a full-time vocalist seven years later when the group reformed following Euronymous’ murder in 1993. He would front the band for a decade, during which time he was involved with three significant studio releases and numerous tours. Upon leaving he would form Skitliv, combining black metal, doom metal and electronic elements and collaborating with the likes of Niklas Kvarforth (Shining), Tore Moren (Arcturus), David Tibet (Current 93) and Attila Csihar (Mayhem). These two bands represent only the tip of the iceberg though, and over the years he has participated in black metal outfit Wurdulak, noise project Sehnsucht and hardcore punk entity Bomberos… to name but a few.

But predating every one of these audial endeavours was Damage Inc., an underground metal/hardcore zine named after the iconic Metallica song, which he founded in 1985 and wrote and edited. In fact, Metallica themselves would be interviewed in the zine, along such emerging talent as Cryptic Slaughter, Sepultura, Necrophagia, and, of course, Mayhem. The zine ran for only two issues however, and though a third was announced in the 1987 issue, it never saw the light of the day.

But curiously, no less than thirty years after the series came to a close, Maniac has returned to his first passion and released a third issue of Damage Inc this month. Featuring the likes of Darkthrone, Clandestine Blaze and Teitanblood, it is as underground a read as ever while also reflecting the years that have passed, being a somewhat darker and more esoteric read than before. As well as handling the text, the layout has been created by hand by Maniac himself in true cut-and-paste tradition, and perhaps reflecting its creator’s unique mind with its use of apocalyptic and religious imagery.

To celebrate this return Cult Never Dies has released an anthology book collecting all three issues and including a long discussion with the man himself [signed copies are available to order HERE]. Below is an exclusive conversation about the project…

Cult Never Dies: For those who have yet to read the new book, can you give a little bit of introduction to the Damage Inc. zine and tell us how this project began in the first place?

Maniac: “Well, it started in 1985, maybe even earlier, but that was when I read my first issue of Slayer mag. I had read fanzines before this, but not with bands that spoke that much to me or triggered such a vast avalanche of interest in a certain scene. It was still okay to read Kerrang! or rags like that, but this was different and it also showed me that it was something I could do myself. My life at this time was filled with bands like Discharge, Hellhammer, Venom, Bathory, The Exploited, Metallica, GBH, Misfits, Amebix and so on, but then there was layer upon layer, with bands beneath these bands that were even more obscure and extreme. Wow! I still truly enjoyed all the aforementioned bands but I wanted to read about the smaller bands too and those were the bands I wanted to get in touch with and write about. So I decided to do my own magazine and I released my first copy in 1986. Most of the bands I loved back then are still with me.” 

It's not unusual for zine writers to be involved in making music in some capacity, but rarely do we see a known musician returning to the medium after playing in bands. What was it that made you want to create a fanzine again all these years later, particularly in this increasingly digital age of webzines and blogs?

“You said the magic words; ‘digital age’. Or maybe these are rather the days of Black Sabbath’s ‘digital bitch’ [laughs]… anyway, I think it was the lack of these kind of magazines and something to do with opposing all the stuff written online. Call me an angry old school man of the world, but I can't continuously read stuff online without getting frustrated and pissed off. I tend to enjoy a book or a magazine that still smells like a book or a magazine. What does an online book smell like? Also I really wanted to write about bands from the Japanese underground scene, which to me might just be the strongest underground scene in the world, but one that is a bit closed to us foreigners. And maybe most importantly I wanted to interview Teitanblood [laughs].”

Obviously some of us still believe very strongly in print, but today it is of course not the necessity it once was. What do you see as the role of fanzines today?

“I think it's still important and it still has the unifying effect it once did – maybe not as strongly as back in the days, but I really do think it still has some of that effect. It is also a media that presents bands in a very different way from online presentations. At least to me, it's more real.”

Your first issue of Damage Inc. from 1986 features Mayhem on the cover, which was a bold move bearing in mind that they were only a demo band at the time and given that you had interviewed none other than Metallica in the same issue. How did the Mayhem interview come together and what led you to put them on the cover when you actually had several bigger bands in the zine?

“When I first bought Slayer mag there was an interview with Mayhem and there was an address. I wrote to them and Euronymous and I became friends quite fast. I was so thrilled that there was a band with this attitude and vision in Norway. It was one of the main reasons to start Damage Inc., just to spread the word on Mayhem. Of course that was not the only reason and I obviously wanted to promote all the underground bands I truly liked. Too bad Hellhammer was already over as a band by then as they were so important both for me and for Mayhem…”

“Anyway, me and my American friend Gary, who had a driving license, drove from Rauland to Langhus just to interview Mayhem, experience one of their great ‘pig-house rehearsals’ and just talk about music. It was a four and a half hour drive. We took some great photos of Mayhem on the day of the rehearsal. It was just fucking perfect. Yeah, sure I could have put Metallica on the front page, but come on, what band do you think was most important for me? I'll never forget the sound of Necro and Euronymous’ bass and guitar as the sound went from fuzz to distortion to waking up dead pigs in the ground outside. Fuck me!”

By the 1987 issue you are providing vocals for the band and of course that same year you took part in the recordings for the band’s now-legendary EP Deathcrush. At what point did you become Mayhem’s vocalist and how did that take place?

“I do not remember the exact date I became a member of Mayhem. I sent Euronymous the Septic Cunts tape in ‘86 and he replied with utter disbelief and perhaps a scornful glee. Anyway, he truly enjoyed that tape and it was a bit back and forth before it was decided that I would become their singer. Mostly because I lived so far away.” 

Reading the first two issues today of Damage Inc. is perhaps as much about soaking up the vibe of the period as the interviews themselves. One of the things that I think both the original issues capture (especially when placed next to issue three) is the degree to which underground metal/music in the 80s was defined by youthful exuberance and even naivety. Does looking at these fanzines again three decades later bring back certain memories of the time?

“You are right. There is no cynicism or avant-garde negativity, just the youthful spirit of ‘fuck the rest of the world’ and ‘into battle we march for our union’. What strikes me is how easy the world was back then. Of course I did not think so at the time, but looking back now there was a certain innocence – even if we still had the Cold War and consumerism, it was easier to see who your enemies were. The last 15-20 years has thoroughly raped the world and the human race. I don't think egoism ever thrived better than today, and ‘honour’ is a word kids today just don't seem to understand. Sometimes I miss the friendship and the strong feeling of a community, but then again, I am way too old to find many positive things about humans anymore. Life took that away [laughs]. Now it's basically a matter of ‘hating everyone equally’, to quote Slayer.” 

How do you feel about the finished Ultra Damaged anthology book now you have it in your hands?

“I was surprised to see the continuity in there. The same fucking way of presenting bands, short intro then interrogation of the band [laughs]. It was interesting to see them like this. It also gives me a bit perspective and a lot of ideas of how to do the next issue. I'm certain there will be a few changes, but on the other hand the magazine was never meant to be an outlet for my own personal writings, and neither was it to be like some kinda biography (that's your job...) I think the book version looks very beautiful with a nice texture and a good layout that makes the single issues stand out and yet presents a singular body of work. 

Hehe. Sound like a Sunday paper ad…” 

Signed copies of 'Ultra Damaged: Damage Inc. Zine 1985 • 2017' can be purchased HERE