EMPEROR's IHSAHN On Being Considered An 'Icon' Of Black Metal: 'It Has Nothing To Do With Me As A Person'

EMPEROR's IHSAHN On Being Considered An 'Icon' Of Black Metal: 'It Has Nothing To Do With Me As A Person'

Carla Morton of Antichrist Magazine 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 diverse nature of "Ámr":

Ihsahn: "It's basically just an element of keeping myself excited. And it's very simple, actually. I've been able to do this for such a long time and I've made so many albums that it could be easily become like muscle memory and repeating oneself, but that would bore me. I like to think that if I'm not super-excited about making new music, I can't expect anyone to be excited about listening to the music. So I constantly just try to find new inspirations and new ways of working that kind of keep that momentum of feeling that something is fresh and inspiring through the whole process. And, I continually draw on different inspirations, but, of course, I don't put all inspirations into every album. So every album I do, I kind of write up a framework for what kind of album I want to make. Then I write music, and with every new idea, I hold it up to this original idea and it's very easy to see if it fits or not. Basically, with the elements that I wanted for this, the kind of core atmosphere that I wanted for this album, it is for me, the album is situated 'inside' as the cover art suggests. All the sounds on the album are much more intimate. It kind of made sense to use and explore analog synthesizers to a much bigger extent in the sound picture, also because it has that kind of claustrophobic vibe to it. Orchestral sounds are often more open and wide. It's constants like that that helped me keep that excitement. It's what I love to do. I don't want to get stuck in a certain path and make the process boring for myself because I think I would end up making just boring music."

On having OPETH guitarist Fredrik Åkesson guest on new song "Arcana Imperii":

Ihsahn: "It was rather simple circumstances. I've known Fredrik since when I did actually my first live show as a solo artist. I did it as support for OPETH in Oslo. That's when after Fredrik joined OPETH, of course. I've known Mikael [Åkerfeldt] since the mid-'90s. I've always been a fan and I always follow OPETH. We constantly meet up at festivals and around the world. [Laughs] Honestly, both me and Fredrik, we're the same age. We both have many of our favorite guitar players from the '70s and '80s. Honestly, he's become one of my absolute favorite guitar players. His choice of tone and his choice of notes and melody and just, yeah, he's just an amazing player, not just technically, but aesthetically. The last time we met, we were playing with OPETH and EMPEROR at Loud Park in Japan. As we often do, we were talking guitars and music and I told him how I felt about his playing. I told him about the album and I said to him 'It would be great to have you contribute a solo on a track.' He said 'Anytime. I'm all in.' Which was great. Basically, I sent him the song. He had recently bought a vintage Gibson SG that he wanted to try out and he did his solo in his studio. All of these things are so easy to do now because of technology. Obviously, he did an amazing job. I was so happy and absolutely honored to have him featured on the album."

On whether he plans to ever "slow down":

Ihsahn: "Obviously, I started out very early. We signed with Candlelight with EMPEROR when I was 16. So, I was very lucky to kind of get into that line of work very early on. But still, I'm 42 now, so looking at bands like JUDAS PRIEST or IRON MAIDEN or any of those who are still going strong, I feel I'm only halfway. [Laughs] I was very privileged to be able to do this from such an early age. There's a lot of lucky coincidences that it's against all odds that I ended up having a music career. What kind of bands do you know from Norway who are actually successful bands? It's maybe A-HA. It's very rare for a musician from Norway to start to be able to have it as a living, but probably even less when you start some of the most extreme music bands in 1991. [Laughs] It was never really meant as a career. Of course, we never had a Plan B either, so it's just very much on pure excitement. [Laughs]"

On being considered an "icon" of black metal:

Ihsahn: "I don't know about that. I was just doing an interview previously about the song 'I Am The Black Wizards' [EMPEROR] because that's also a song that's stuck with us that a lot of people seem to have a relationship to, that they recognize well. We wrote that song when I was 16. I was 17 by the time we recorded 'In The Nightside Eclipse'. It's strange, but kind of a very nice experience having been part of music that, of course, in Poland, we played 'I Am The Black Wizards', it's one of the songs that we always play and you see grown men cry because they get very emotional. It's in a similar way that some of my favorite music I grew up listening to or going to an IRON MAIDEN show and hearing some of my favorites from back in the day, it has a huge emotional impact on me. You mentioned an 'icon' of black metal, I differentiate it very much about the music and once it's released, it lives a life on its own. But, it has nothing to do with me as a person. It can sometimes be very strange to be in the capacity when we're playing and doing autographs and signing sessions and selfies and being a representative of very much that emotional focus, that I think it's important for me dealing with that, that is more respecting the fact that people have a strong relationship to music that I happen to be a part of, rather than thinking it has anything to do with me as a person."

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


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