George Pacheco of the Cape Cod Rock Music Examiner recently conducted an interview with former EMPEROR frontman Ihsahn (real name: Vegard Sverre Tveitan). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Cape Cod Rock Music Examiner: Do you feel this album ["After"] could open up your solo career to those who either haven't heard, or have been slow-moving in checking it out since the demise of EMPEROR?
Ihsahn: I guess I haven't been giving that too much thought, so to speak, because I'm usually far too focused whenever I'm creating an album. I also wear many hats — from writing and producing to recording — so I don't have much time to think of it from a promotional standpoint, but yeah, I think the feeling has evolved into something which might appeal perhaps to a wider audience of the more experimental fans of the traditional black metal form.
Cape Cod Rock Music Examiner: Did you ever feel boxed-in within that black metal genre prior to starting your solo career? Struggling with pre-conceptions of what you could do as an artist?
Ihsahn: There are, of course, very conservative ideas within the traditional black metal sense, and sometimes it's been irritating. I've been doing this for twenty years now, and at times it's a bit frustrating to hear that some people think I did my best work at seventeen! (laughs) If I thought that, there would be no reason to continue, so I always think that the best is yet to come. I've also grown much more confident, and have come to terms with EMPEROR as a phenomenon, living a life of its own. The rest of my career will probably live in the shadow of my own creation, in a way, but I'm still here doing what I love, and that's the only way I can honor that: doing my absolute best, in the most truthful way I can.
Cape Cod Rock Music Examiner: When comparing "After" to your prior albums, "Angl" and "The Adversary", what did you think was done differently, and do you feel this best encapsulates what you've always wanted to do? Are you most satisfied with this record?
Ihsahn: I'm very pleased. I don't measure each album; they're all a new experience for me, and very much where I'm at — on many levels — at the time I'm making them. I definitely feel that this is way up there, though, with regards to my own work. I changed the parameters, especially with the type of atmospheres I wanted to express. The idea of doing a trilogy first become involved when I was doing "The Adversary", which — as the title implies — is very personal, confrontational and Nietzsche-inspired. "Angl" is the other side of the coin: still very direct and referring to this solitary, Luciferian figure. Ending this trilogy, I wanted something a bit more abstract; going a bit beyond the contemporary conflict thing, and seeking out more underlying and lasting inspirational sources. I feel I've touch more on the things which have been inspirational to me all along.
Cape Cod Rock Music Examiner: Musically speaking, do you feel this unleashes your inner prog-rocker, so to speak? For me, this is the most progressive route I think your music has taken. I hear a lot of '70s, GENTLE GIANT-esque prog within a lot of these songs.
Ihsahn: That's the thing a lot of people ask about: my prog influences. In that sense, I feel almost like [an outsider]. Speaking to Mikael [Åkerfeldt] or Per [Wilberg] from OPETH; they're like encyclopedias of the prog scene. Of course, I know KING CRIMSON, RUSH, YES and DREAM THEATER, but I don't come from that background. The progressive parts in my music I feel is the result of using more traditional compositional techniques. When I started in my teens with EMPEROR, it was more about getting all of these riffs together in a sensible way and convention, whereas now I start with a main theme or motif, and listen for what needs to come next. Afterwards, I'll twist and turn those elements in a more traditional compositional style; transfer the melody lines, themes or riffs and work the arrangement in a different way. I'm not trying to have all these different themes and riffs sticking together in one song; I'd rather explore fewer ideas, and make the most of that.
Read the entire interview from Cape Cod Rock Music Examiner.