IHSAHN On EMPEROR: 'In 1991, We Did Not Start An Obscure Black Metal Band To Make It'

March 18, 2018

Metal Wani's Jake Patton recently conducted an interview with EMPEROR frontman Ihsahn (real name: Vegard Sverre Tveitan) about his forthcoming new solo album, "Ámr". You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the "contemporary" sounds found on "Ámr":

Ihsahn: "For every solo album I ever did, I have one book where I write a sketch of what kind of album I want to make before I start writing anything. Not as a limitation, but as a framework of what I want to achieve because I grew up with albums that had kind of an overall atmosphere to them, even though the material in each individual song was different. It kind of adds up to one general vibe. That's kind of what I want to achieve with albums, that they have a core emotional vibe to them and atmosphere, but then to explore the extremes within that framework. It's on different levels. With my previous album, 'Arktis', the scene of the album and all the metaphors were placed in this cold, arctic landscape. This time, the artwork, the lyrics, everything, is placed inside and also production-wise, the sounds and production is also much more intimate and maybe even modern. I've released quite a few albums by now and I just constantly try to find new approaches and the ways to make the whole process and experience of making this music exciting to myself, selfishly, to make myself really excited and enthusiastic about the whole process, because I'm thinking if I'm not excited about it, I can't really expect anyone to really listen to it and be excited about it either. I was very pleased when comparing the end result to the goals I set for this album. I'm very happy with the end result but also, I'm proud that I finally took more risks, especially production-wise to go almost with the mono-drums, total focus on analog synthesizers and bringing in 808-tuned [sampled] drums and just pouring a lot of other influences into this. Of course, it's never my intention to try and sound like something else. It's always my intention to sound like me but in a totally different way. [Laughs]"

On whether any members of Ihsahn's backing band LEPROUS were involved in the creation of "Ámr":

Ihsahn: "Not this time, other than of course, Tobias Ørnes, who is the drummer, who was previously in LEPROUS, but I've been working with him since the fourth album. He's an amazing drummer. But none of the LEPROUS members were involved this time. Oftentimes, I've had Einar [Solberg] do some vocals and it's kind of natural, he's my youngest brother-in-law. [Laughs] So it's more of a family thing and he was just here over the weekend recording some vocals where my wife is producing some vocals for him for some guest performances. It's a practical thing. It's nice to have a lot of people close by and your family that you can bounce off on. [Laughs]"

On whether the prospect of fan backlash enters his mind while writing more experimental material:

Ihsahn: "It's almost in a boring way, but my experience is really that is that I've had so much shit and so much praise for exactly the same albums. The albums haven't changed; people's perception of those albums have changed. The first two EMPEROR albums were absolutely slaughtered by major metal media. Ten, twenty years passes, and suddenly, I see these albums next to BLACK SABBATH's debut album and 'most influential and important album of the last 50 years.' Stuff like this. It goes up and down like a yo-yo. As you can imagine, I've said this many times, in 1991, we did not start an obscure black metal band to make it. [Laughs] There was no scene, there was no 'making it.' There was a very, very small, underground scene, kind of pushing the envelope of the extremes in music. We were teenagers. There were purely artistic ambitions, no commercial ambitions at all. I like to think that was the only reason we ended up having a career in the first place because by doing so, you created something that was exotic and unique enough not to really compete with anything that already existed. I think all the way through, even the EMPEROR albums were all very different from each other. In my experience, I think the only thing I can do, is of course, being in a free position, I just have to do my best with every album and sometimes, that resonates with some people and maybe not with others and the next album, I might turn things upside-down, just for my own sake, as I said, to stay in that excitement about work. Hopefully, at least I try to communicate that all along. That I'll do this totally uncompromising, just as uncompromising as we did in the early EMPEROR days, for better or worse. But, at least you'll know when you listen to it, it will resonate with you or not, I hope you'll have the impression that it's genuine, that is the integrity of being what it is for what it is. It's not sweetened for any expectations for any market or any record label. It is what it is. Whether consciously or subconsciously, I think people are drawn to this style of music. That is what, in essence, is what they hope for. They don't want something mass-produced to fit the expectations or kind of be formed like that. They want something that is raw and very from the heart."

"Ámr" will be released on May 4 via Candlelight/Spinefarm.

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