It was good to catch back up with the Emperor front man, here's what he said...
Wil- I know your latest Album Das Seelenbrechen was an intentional step away from your past solo albums, so how did you go about this ?
Ihsahn - the previous album were heavy, with 8 string guitars and sax, so this time I wanted to stay inspired and out of my comfort zone and go about this like many of the artists I have had an admiration for who express themselves spontaneously. For the more metal albums I have always worn so many hats on the production side of things, all the control leaves little space. So I wanted to go backwards, bring back the black metal atmosphere and try different musical forms. I wanted to explore different chord colors. I would go into the studio in the middle of the night with two lyrics and took them to the drummer and just picked up my guitar and improvised. It is how I imagine Diamanda Galas might create with some of her more vocal works.
Wil - and the drummer on this is the same guy from Leprous ?
Ihsahn- yes , Tobias. It seemed like the most natural choice, after touring with him and having built a dynamic. I can't imagine doing it with anyone else ,as he can play the ore black metal up beat drumming as well as relate to the improvisation.
Wil- Let's talk about "Pulse" it's a very different song for you, how did it come about?
Ihsahn - From the spontaneous way of working, I bought a Moog and made an electronic beat with it and then used it to make a bass line. I also used it for a lot of the bass lines on the albums heavier songs as well. I have listened to a lot of electronic music over the years, and the idea built out of itself.
Wil- You mentioned the Moog, gear wise was there anything else new you tried in the studio?
Ihsahn - I have always like to use new things, this time it was more of a mix from the 8 strings to a hybrid long scale 7 string that Ibenez came out with. I also used a Telecaster, as it is the only way to get that certain twangy sound. I even came back into possession of my first guitar from when I was 10 and used it. I played percussively on old acoustics and sampled that.
Wil- The title references the Nietzsche saying about "art of the ugly soul" was this the theme for the album?
Ihsahn - That word is not a real German word , he put it together and I felt it summed up the feeling that comes from my inspiration. Perception synonymous with abstract, I crave it when I listen to music. To reach the place beyond perception where you loose yourself. That is where those happy mistakes come from, the ego is aside and its nothing technical.
Wil- I think since music works off vibrations, becomes more conducive to doing that than physical art forms. Did you find improvisation put you in a more meditative space to reach that place ?
Ihsahn- Absolutely, To break off from your own ego and most artists have great egos, myself included, so to loose the conscious side, and express your self without the critical goblin on your shoulder. There is often imagery attached to music but easier to make our own interpretations.
Wil- So what was the lyrical theme for the album?
Ihsahn- I have always written personal lyrics masking them with grandiose images, to hide the personal, so its open to interpretation , rather than leave myself naked. I think as I wrote more spontaneously it came from a more personal state of mind. Some one who is smarter than me said " All art is created from a place between megalomainia and self loathing. It's a roller coaster between the two and it hasn't gotten any easier.
Wil- What challenges do you see the new material creating when you transition to playing it live?
Ihsahn- I think the challenge will be the stage. Most of the shows I have been playing recently are outside festivals and I have been opening with "On the Shores and closing with " the Grave" they are both slow with long sax passages, I think it is necessary to play them, but in the early evening, in the heat every one is drinking cold beer and just having fun. So some if might be more fitting for indoor festivals where it is more experimental and tailor the set for specific performances, so not as much compromise but what is practical.
Wil - With the Emperor reunion coming in 2014, was this in the back of your mind or influence you at all when writing this album ?
Ihsahn - This was finished before those talks came about, but I have always been reluctant to do Emperor, it's no secret I have been rather stubborn as I want my current music to be as relevant as what I have done in the past, though by embracing the attitude of not being in control it took me back to the place from when we were 19 and recorded in the Night Side Eclipse. We just had the intense drive to create with having any experience, so it will be easier from that place to relate to old Emperor and hopefully I feeling so that it can be preformed with the needed intensity.
Wil- One thing we share is a love for King Diamond. There's a trend coming from Sweden with bands like , Ghost and In Solitude who are very influenced by him. What influence has he had on you and how does that continue?
Ihsahn - I grew up listening to Priest and Maiden but then the King Diamond band came and added more of a depth and epic nature of its drama . King Diamond's vocal style is so expressive and has such a range of different voices. Andy Laroque is my favorite guitarist. His tone, playing and expressiveness have all influenced mine. I have listened to Maiden's Seventh Son, album the most, but Them is right behind it.
Wil- Yeah, I always felt King took what they did and gave it a more romantic darkness, that was a big influence to early black and to what Emperor did.
Ihsahn - Yes, he wrote about deliberately about satanism where it had only been skimmed on in a superficial sense. Death metal is one dimensional. Is just aggression . The vocal style is just aggressive, where with a black metal scream it can convey a wider range of emotion. There is aggression, but there is also desperation and melancholy. King Diamond's voice is like that it has a nasty side, but in his lower croon a more mournful sound.
Wil - Speaking of variety in vocal ranges, your's becomes more refined, how do you see yourself growing with it comes to actually singing?
Ihsahn - I have slowly accepted my voice as it is. When I was younger, I never thought about it I just did it and went for it. As I have gotten older, I'm more self aware. It's always been a challenge to like my own voice. So to just sing as it sounds is difficult , with the harsh vocals it's easier to express, like playing with distortion on the guitar. But I write songs where it is necessary and I like building the harmonies, but singing is always difficult.
Wil - Do lesson do you feel you took away from making this album?
Ihsahn - Improved at breaking self imposed barriers. The idea that having the confidence to try something different . I'm a big fan of Radiohead and every one though Ok Computer was great but then they followed it up by changing their whole sound and bringing in computers and making electronic music, though it still sounds like Radiohead. So to be free and trust the process and know that it will happen.
Wil - Well its that time of the month for Halloween, what does this time of year mean for you?
Ihsahn - Oh, I very much enjoy it but it has become about the children.
Wil - Haha, yeah My daughter is three now and one day she wants to be Cinderella the next Batgirl, so we could be buying costumes all month.
Ihsahn - My daughter has been planning Halloween for a year now.
Wil- Well , looks like we are out of time...
Ihsahn - Always enjoy talking with you ,look forward to talking to you again.