Interview with Are Mokkelbost from KILLL, by Andreas Schiffmann for Legacy Magazine, conducted October 2008.
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
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 KILLL 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
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
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
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 KILLL 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.