EMPEROR's creative core, guitarist Samoth and frontman Ihsahn recently spoke to Terrorizer magazine about their upcoming reunion concerts and their plans for the future. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
On the band's break-up:
Ihsahn: "When we announced the split in 2001, we didn't think we would do anything more with EMPEROR ever again."
Samoth: "At that point, we both had other priorities that we wanted to pursue and we both felt that splitting up EMPEROR was the best thing to do. We really wanted to focus on other things, and felt it was the only right thing to do."
Ihsahn: "The decision was also based on the feeling that EMPEROR had a lot of integrity and that if we were going to end it, we should end it while still created great music. For us, the decision was made in the black metal spirit. Since Samoth and I pulled in different directions, we didn't see any point in continuing. The core of the band wasn't intact anymore. We probably could have made more money continuing with EMPEROR, but we didn't start playing black metal to earn a living."
Samoth: "We talked about doing a couple of farewell concerts right after the split, but all those discussions always ended up in us doing long tours all over the world, and we really didn’t' want to do that. Now we have the time and the inspiration to do a couple of exclusive shows, just like we discussed. Another thing is that whe new split up, we hadn't played since 1999 and 'Prometheus' was a studio project. Everything was done in a studio, and we didn't really feel like starting to rehearse again just to do a couple of shows at that point."
Ihsahn: "This is something we want to do now, and we're not doing it for anybody else. We're doing these shows for ourselves and the fans that have supported us and not the business behind everything."
On the band's surprise three-song gig at Scream's 15-year anniversary party at Oslo, Norway's Rockefeller on Sept. 30, 2005:
Ihsahn: "It was good to work forward towards a deadline for that gig, and it was a great way to announce the other headline gigs. It was a much better way to do it like that rather than just announce it via the Internet."
Samoth: "When the gig came up, it wasn't just something we maybe would do, but something we actually had to do. We had to be prepared for that concert, even though it was just three songs. It wasn't easy since we're quite busy with our own bands and projects, and at the same time, we had to keep it a secret, which was both very hard and not that much fun. We didn't even tell our closest friends and family, so we got some hate mail afterwards from them.
"It wasn't easy to keep the rehearsals a secret either. There are several bands rehearsing in the same building and we were quite lucky that so few found out what was going on. We just had to tell those who caught us rehearsing that we were thinking of doing some concerts sometime in the future, but nobody knew that we were going to play so soon."
Ihsahn: "It was like I'd just warmed up for the rest of the gig, and then it was over. I hadn't been on a stage since I played with PECCATUM at the Inferno Festival in 2000, so it was a bit frustrating to only play three songs."
Samoth: "The main difference between me and Ihsahn is that I've played more concerts with ZYKLON than we ever did with EMPEROR, and I have a lot of experience with that now."
Ihsahn: "I've become a studio rat over the past years, but I was surprised that I wasn't more nervous before the gig. Actually, it was really good fun to play again, and it was quite easy to get into the songs again. I still had them in me. Anyway, I'm quite used to being in that setting, even though I haven't played live for a long time. Samoth and I have played together since 1988, and we have done a lot together, so I'm on safe ground no matter what. With that in mind, that concert was an easy job with only three songs and it couldn’t go wrong. We would have to do a lot wrong if people ended up disappointed."
On their touring plans:
Samoth: "We could tour America twice if we wanted to now, but we don't see any point in doing that."
Ihsahn: "We just want to do some exclusive shows now which we didn't get to do after the 'Prometheus' album, and only the Inferno Festival and Wacken Festival are confirmed at the moment [the interview was conducted before the gigs in New York and Los Angeles were announced — Ed.]. People probably have a lot of different opinions about that, and some people probably think that we want to earn some extra cash and do a stupid reunion thing now, but that's not the case. People can think what they want about this, but we just want to do some exclusive concerts now and that's it."
On the possibility of recording a new EMPEROR studio album:
Samoth: "What to answer on questions about a new album is probably that it's the one thing we've planned the least, so we don't have anything to say about that. The most important thing about these concerts is that this is something we want to do."
Ihsahn: "That was the thought when we first entered the rehearsal place again too and we just wanted to check out how this went. We had a really good time on that first rehearsal and felt we could do something again. But we wanted to do everything our way, and now we have some great opportunities as musicians, like headlining the Wacken Festival. We're doing this for our own personal gain, in accordance to the black metal principles."
Samoth: "We both have our own bands and projects that are our main priority and which we will continue to work with no matter what happens with EMPEROR. We don't want those projects to be side-projects to EMPEROR. EMPEROR is the side-project now, which is kind of strange."
Samoth: "If we're ever going to do another album with EMPEROR, it will not be another studio project. It has to be done in the rehearsal room."
On what fans can expect from the upcoming shows:
Samoth: "We will play something from all the EMPEROR albums, and that means that we'll also play some songs from the 'Prometheus' album. But the show will be somewhat traditional. We have a good feeling on what the fans want to hear, so there are songs that we just have to play. We have more than enough material to pick from, so that won't be a problem at all."
Ihsahn: "Even though we'll have to leave some songs out, we hope we can get the fans to feel that they didn't miss anything when they see us now. I don't think we'll go out as a parody of ourselves."
Upcoming EMPEROR shows:
Apr. 13-15 - Oslo, NOR @ Inferno Festival
Jul. 14 - New York, NY B.B. King's
Jul. 16 - Los Angeles, CA @ Key Club
Aug. 3-5 - Wacken, GER @ Wacken Open Air