VivianKrist: Onkyokei Shaman
"I don't mind coldness but darkness all the time is a bit heavy."
The last couple of decades has seen an increase in the number of highly creative women emerging as innovative noise artists. Pioneering figures such as Sachio M, Lana Del Rabies and Pharmakon have been making sonic waves across the noise circuit, ushering in a new kind of Renaissance, one centering around the feminine expression through sound exploration. One such pioneering woman is Japanese-born Eri Isaka Fuzz-Kristiansen, otherwise known as VivianKrist.
Some may have encountered a previous incarnation of Eri before, though not as VivianKrist. Born in Tokyo 1978, at the age of sixteen she founded the doom-encrusted black metal band Gallhammer and took on the moniker of Vivian Slaughter.
Gallhammer, spearheaded by the visionary Vivian Slaughter (who sported a rumbling distorted bass and projected horrifying, guttural vocals), sludged their way throughout the punk and metal underground during the 2000’s, releasing three albums until Gallhammer’s demise in 2010 following Slaughter's departure. It would be some time before the world heard from Vivian again.
In the last two years, however, there have been some new sonic signals being emitted from the Japanese native, who is now residing in Oslo. Now is the time we begin to hear more disturbance, more noise reverberating from whom we now know as VivianKrist.
In the Spring of 2019, VivianKrist released her debut album Morgenrøde, through Cold Spring. Summer of the same year saw the release of her “Cross Modulation” album, a collaborative co-release between Diagnol Records and Ritual Productions.
VivianKrist's sound loosely falls into the category of “Onkyokei”, a style of improvised noise music that is characteristic of the Japanese noise scene. Her Onkyo improvisation is akin to an audible invocation of an entity of which written language cannot describe. It is ritualistic yet rooted in a technological format that involves synthesizers, loops and power electronics. Her soundscapes can be at times meditative, and at times jarringly harsh.
This year will see the release of her third effort, Cross Modulation – Bootleg Remixes, an album featuring an impressive host of guests including Justin Broaderick (Godflesh), Andrew Liles (Current 93) and Mixhell, a project that features Maniac (ex-Mayhem) and Igor Cavaliera (Sepultura).
Speaking with VivianKrist, I learned how this fascinating project of hers came to be.
“One day I decided to make some noise with my bass but it didn’t go so well, so I just picked up my husband’s old synthesizers. It was an amazing start.”
So VivianKrist began to experiment with different electronics and synths until she was satisfied enough to consider the machines to be a type of conduit. I asked if VivianKrist was fuelled purely by improvised expression or if there was a particular message that she would like to convey.
Basically it’s all improvisation. Especially with those first two albums, the tracks were made with layers of improvisations. But recently I have started to sometimes use PC/iPhone programs/apps. There is no particular message. I also avoid to name songs with titles that may contain some particular messages.”
In terms of her goals and objectives with this project, VivianKrist's vision is as simple and humble as it is honest and powerful:
“I have almost no aims or goals for my music. Just doing this for a kind of lifework. I hope I can do this for many years and improve upon it. It’s very nice to face to my own music alone and think about it. I really like to work with my synths while I look out at the forest and trees from windows. I was slightly thinking about nature and electronics sounds that time of recording. I kind of wanted to express [the grandeur of] of nature with my synths.”
With the wondrous landscapes of Norway providing an endless source of inspiration for many of its native artists, I wonder how much of a muse the country’s vastly rich heritage and nature is to VivianKrist. Does Norway’s frosted forests and snow-peaked mountains bear much influence on her work?
“There has been a lot of people asking me about this... I’m not sure, but maybe. Winter especially here is long and dark. I don’t mind coldness but darkness all the time is a bit heavy.”
So perhaps the heavy darkness of the Norwegian winter influences the mood of VivianKrist’s sound. It can't be too difficult to imagine that this environment would have an effect on an artist, particularly if the artist in question had not originally been born of such distinct surroundings as the Norwegian countryside (not to dismiss the endless source of inspiration that can be drawn from the wonderfully cultured land of Japan).
So, if the influence of the Norwegian nature is only minimal, tonal or subconscious, what are the conscious influences that VivianKrist draws upon for her sounds?
“Ah. Difficult. I like Noise-music and club music but I do not listen to those things all the time. I always love Justin Broadrick's (Godflesh) and Mick Harris’s (Scorn, ex-Napalm Death) works. Also I love Pete Swanson. I started modular synth because he used them.
Also recently I like to listen to Russian Hiphop/Trap Rap, Witch House/Witch Trap as pop music. I was inspired from them when I made my newest remix actually.”
Having come from a more metallic, guitar-driven background, musically speaking, where did the love of power electronics come from?
“It’s just simple. I grew up in Japan. And I was in Tokyo most of the time. There were/are many great noise bands/artists there so I was influenced by them naturally.”
Soon VivianKrist shall release Cross Modulation - Bootleg Remixes, an album featuring an impressive list of creative contributors. How did this album come to fruition?
“Some of them I know from before, so I just asked them about the possibility of doing a remix. Some of them are friends of my friends. They just heard Cross Modulation and they said they really liked it.”
Amongst the list of contributors is VivianKrist’s own husband Maniac, himself no stranger to the creation of harsh and experimental sounds. One would speculate the couple’s household to be a hotbed of creativity and musical exploration, though is that the reality of the situation?
“We have lived together for almost 10 years now but we don’t do music together so often. Sometimes however, we do help each other. For example, I made backing tracks for his guitar works. He has also started doing noise/improvisation with guitars recently.”
Having already racked up a particularly noteworthy list of collaborates throughout her musical career, what other artists out there would VivianKrist most like to collaborate with?
“I don’t know but I work with Risa from Gallhammer and she is also doing electronics music under the name of Risaripa very often. Collaborating with her is always the most fun and very easy going.”
There has recently been an increase in the amount of amazingly creative women emerging as extremely innovative noise artists. Which female artists does VivianKrist most admire? Is she keeping tabs on such artists?
“Yeah. Especially some of the young people are amazing. I’m going to see Pharmakon and Puce Mary soon. Very much looking forward to it. Also, I’ll play in Tokyo this summer, and Japanese noise musician Yuko Araki who is touring in Europe several times over the last few years also will play there. So I’m looking forward to seeing her play in real life.”
So for now, the works of VivianKrist are in full throttle. It will be exciting to see where the future will take her. However, I had to ask, is there any hope of Gallhammer getting back together?
“Oslo and Tokyo are quite a distance apart and Risa of Gallhammer still lives in Tokyo, so it is not easy to practice... Being in a band is very fun and exciting but at the same time it needs a lot of effort with times and life situations. Also, we are little too much busy with synthesizers right now... so we really don’t know that.”
Though there is nothing on the cards for the immediate future of Gallhammer, I’m just happy to hear that it’s not a definite “no” for now. So, what's next for VivianKrist?
“Cross Modulation - Bootleg Remixes is coming in the spring, then I’ll play some shows in Europe and Japan. After that I would like to record something again.”
So the future seems bright and fruitful for VivianKrist, as she continues to spread her impressive tonal output across the world. In today’s current climate, politically and economically, with many painful changes taking place across the world, we can always look towards the divine feminine spirit for inspiration and insight, in whatever form it may take. In this case, we can take a look at the works of VivianKrist and her somewhat shamanic sense of creativity and ponder. VivianKrist is one of many pioneering women within the noise scene today and people should take note, because this could be the next stage of musical evolution.
-- Liam Hughes
Cross Modulation -- Bootleg Remixes releases this spring through Ritual Productions.