We Love Metal recently conducted an interview with EMPEROR frontman Ihsahn (real name: Vegard Sverre Tveitan). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
We Love Metal: This album ["Das Seelenbrechen"] was much more progressive than the last album. What were some of your inspirations for that?
Ihsahn: Well, I've been wanting to do an album in that fashion for a long time, I guess. All along, I've been wanting to make something like this, and I've had great admiration for those who do. For me, in my background in black metal for 20 years, It's a hard process. With me producing and recording, it's just that much harder for that accidental magic to happen. [laughs] For me, in my past four albums, I've had the same sort of roots, for this album I wanted to do something totally different. I do my best work slightly out of my comfort zone. I just want to keep the process fresh, exciting and new.
We Love Metal: Your previous releases had guests such as Mikael Åkerfeldt of OPETH, and Devin Townsend, but this one doesn't have anyone. Was that a choice you made consciously or did it just end up that way?
Ihsahn: It kind of just ended up like that. Probably because of what I just said; this is so new to me, I just sacrificed all control of things, hoping something new would happen in the process. When writing, I didn't find a spot for guest vocals, or solos or anything like that. Tobias Andersen (LEPROUS), the guest drummer, was great for this album, and I feel he did a great job, but I couldn't find a spot for any other guests on there.
We Love Metal: Do you miss playing black metal?
Ihsahn: Eh, no not really. That sound is kind of, to me, irrelevant, at the core of it. That is, actually, if I were to boil down, the album that I just made, the view was to make an old-school black metal atmosphere. Not with typical instruments, but with the sound and feel. That's what the new album is for. I've said it before, but black metal is not the sound; it's an attitude, it's a state of mind.
We Love Metal: How do you feel [EMPEROR's 1994 album] "In The Nightside Eclipse" has aged? It's easily one of my favorite black metal releases, and hugely important for progressive black metal.
Ihsahn: For me, of course, it's the starting point of having a 20-year career. I guess I don't have the privilege of experiencing the album the same way that listeners do; I have the memories of making the album. Obviously, this is a very different album for me. I think it's a starting point. I was new to recording, and it was the first time we entered a big studio. We were just teenagers. We had this conviction. I wouldn't say we had the authority, but the conviction to make the best album we could. I can kind of think back and appreciate the state of mind. My whole career, I've tried to keep that same relationship with my music. So in that respect, I think the general attitude is no different then how I made back then.
We Love Metal: How do you feel about the ["Das Seelenbrechen"] album?
Ihsahn: To be honest? I think it's been some of the most roller-coaster like process in many many years. Part of this is the music is so far from everything else I've done. I just don't have anything to compare it to, but making an album is very stitched up kind of process, ya know? You don't record one track fully, you go back and forth back and forth through songs. But when it was finished, I was very pleased; it was exactly what I set out to do. I mean, I've been wanting to use horns for awhile. In the beginning of EMPEROR, it's all strings and choirs, but by the time we finished "Eclipse", I was like, "Fuck that." I wanted to hear more brass. I love the heaviness of the horns, and the sound and power of well-played brass. The whole time I was recording and listening to it, I was thinking that it was probably a commercial suicide. But there wouldn't be any point in sidestepping if it just sounds the same of what I already did/do. But no, I was very pleased, and I'm almost surprised by feedback. I underestimated my listeners. Many people seem to get the album, in a far deeper sense then what I expected at first. When you do an album this way, you have no control over how people will perceive it. Back to the fact that it's an ego trip making an album as a solo artist, doing my best in the most honest way I can. It's kind of the only way to respect the listeners. If you have a background in black metal and you try to form your ideas to what people actually like, you're in the wrong business. [laughs]
Read the entire interview at We Love Metal.