IHSAHN Talks Revisiting His Black Metal 'Musical Roots' On New EP 'Telemark'

February 14, 2020

EMPEROR frontman Ihsahn (real name: Vegard Sverre Tveitan) recently discussed his new solo EP, "Telemark", with Italy's "Heavy Demons" radio show. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On whether he agrees with the sentiment expressed in the title of "Rock And Roll Is Dead", the Lenny Kravitz song cover on his new "Telemark" EP:

Ihsahn: "No, I wouldn't say so, but I think the statement was very valid... Beyond the song being an amazing rock song and kind of like an aesthetic inspiration for the sound I wanted for the 'Telemark' EP, it also kind of connected well, I think, with that kind of old-school black metal attitude, where it's not about commercial forces or money or all the superficial stuff. It's about the core music, and I think by all the intent, that is the message of 'Rock And Roll Is Dead'. It dies when it goes from the kind of core, artistic motivation that made you play this kind of music at the start of it, and it gets overshadowed by all the superficial aspects that might with it if you become successful. It [has] a similar kind of core feeling and attitude that I guess I felt at home with."

On his black metal-influenced "Telemark" EP:

Ihsahn: "The reason how this whole project [took] shape, it's kind of pulling together a lot of different facets. This is a conceptual idea. I work with very particular concepts for every kind of recording or release. I wrote this very much in collaboration with Heidi, my wife and creative partner. She wanted to challenge me to do a more only black metal kind of release. She also suggested I do it in Norwegian. The musical aesthetics, I wanted to write the music for typical drums, bass, two guitars, screaming vocals — to write the whole EP for that kind of ensemble, very bare bones like how I started out. Deciding on all the black metal vocals, it was back to my musical roots, if you will. When that was settled, it made sense to go back to my geographical roots and also my cultural roots. It just made a lot of sense to combine all these elements into 'Telemark'. This has been a thing also from the early EMPEROR stuff. We feel very much at home here, and I think every EMPEROR show is introduced, 'From Telemark, Norway.'"

On why he decided to release two EPs:

Ihsahn: "Some of the motivation for me to doing these two EPs in a series – the first one comes out in mid-February, and the second one, about six months after that — the second EP will be kind of exploring the opposite side of the first EP. I guess all my albums are slightly — hopefully — a variety of expressions, but still, I always want my albums to be very cohesive. I kind of work on the subconscious ideal of an album that is very balanced and feels like the songs form a larger whole, like classic IRON MAIDEN albums — not just a collection of songs that happen to written in that period. There needs to be some common denominator for all of them. That would kind of limit how far you can go. The title track for the 'Telemark' EP, which has kind of a folkish element to the riffs, I don't think I would find a place for those kind of tone colors in a solo album. This made it possible for me to explore even outside of what I have been doing, and I hope in many ways I can do the same thing with the second EP. That's some of the motivation for doing this. I've been releasing a full-length album every second year since I was 16. Now, I'm 44. It was a good opportunity after seven solo albums to do something else. Also, I've been playing more live shows. In 2018, I did my first tour, and I want to extend the release of the EPs with live shows building on the same aesthetics. I will do shows following the first EP with extreme shows, where I pick a setlist and do a performance based on the aesthetics of this EP, and hopefully following the second EP, I will do a totally different setlist and totally different show that leans on the aesthetics of that EP. I think my record company was slightly concerned, because most people in this style of music, they [look] at EPs as like leftovers that are dropped before the second round of touring. This is something else. I wanted the recordings of these new songs would be part of a bigger project... It was influenced by how music is perceived now, that the release of an album is not really that big a deal. People relate to music in shorter formats in some way, and the more important, exclusive aspect of it is really back to the live performance. It kind of made sense to try to bind it together."

On whether he misses anything about the early days of EMPEROR:

Ihsahn: "I don't think there's anything I miss. Not at all. What was important back then is that I got to spend all my professional time — my passion for music became my work. EMPEROR has been so important in leading up to me being able to do this for my whole grown-up life. I still get to explore; I still get to challenge myself and release, record and create music; and I get to play shows all over the world, both with EMPEROR and [as] Ihsahn. I don't miss being super-broke and having really hard touring conditions and things being very chaotic. I'm very, very pleased with where I'm at in my life."

On "Lords Of Chaos":

Ihsahn: "I haven't seen it. I haven't read the book. I guess it's kind of counter-intuitive given the EP, but on the general whole, I'm really not that nostalgic."

On why he doesn't often listen to metal:

Ihsahn: "It's what I do. It's not that I'm bored of it, but it's probably like a chef trying to come up with new recipes from eating and preparing the same food over and over again. Sometimes, you need those other influences, especially in musical genres and ways of creating music that I have no experience with, where I'm surprised and I discover musical elements — sounds or chord combinations or clusters of sound — that inspire me, and I feel I might implement that into my own palette or repertoire."

Ihsahn released "Telemark", the first of two new five-song EPs, on February 14 via Candlelight. The effort represents the heavier side of Ihsahn's music, while the companion EP — to be released at a later date — will show his more progressive side.

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