Stormbringer webzine conducted an interview with EMPEROR frontman and acclaimed solo artist Ihsahn (real name: Vegard Sverre Tveitan) prior to his November 9 concert at Szene in Vienna, Austria. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether he's bothered by the fact his work with EMPEROR still outshines his solo output:
Ihsahn: "In many ways, I suppose it's natural. It's how things work. I guess in the past, I was more aware of that fact, but I mean, at this point, I've been doing my solo stuff longer than we ever did EMPEROR. I'm seven solo albums in and people are still interested. I mean, as a musician from Norway, being able to kind of be successful with both bands is one thing, but to be able to continue as a solo artist for this long… I'm on a headline tour now. In between that, we do festivals, sometimes with EMPEROR, sometimes with my solo stuff. I get to do both. What's not to like? [Laughs]"
On fans trying to encourage him to add more black metal influences to his solo work:
Ihsahn: "I think maybe it's like that, I don't really follow. It's not that I don't care; it's just that I think if you compare the first EMPEROR albums, there was no scene. There was no career to be had. There was no money, no prestige to be had. We basically made those albums out of pure enthusiasm for this expression we wanted to make, with no compromise and just head-on. I think that is the only reason we ended up with EMPEROR being what it is. It wasn't trying to fit into some part of the market or what have you. By doing that, I think, not by plan, it just accidently carved out a space on its own. The region black metal came a thing, but when we did that, it wasn't a thing. [Laughs] I like to think that that kind of uncompromising, experimental attitude — some people find it strange that I do more what they call 'progressive music.' They say, 'He's using a saxophone in his music or keyboards or what have you.' To me, I'm thinking of the early black metal scene which was basically teenagers pushing the extremes of what we could do musically. I think it's more strange that more people from that scene are continuing that kind of quest for something new. My main ambition is to just keep myself enthusiastic and engaged in what I do. I don't think any musician could really do it if you make music to please some kind of market or whatever. There's lot of music like that. It's called the pop industry. [Laughs] You still have gems in there, but you have people who do the right thing. I think I owe my fans and people who have followed my work and made it possible for me to make this my full-time job and play the music I love is to be as genuine and truthful and uncompromising today as back when we did the first EMPEROR albums. If it was up to me alone, this would be what EMPEROR would sound like. Not in that sense, but this is how I make metal now. As a fan of music myself, I like different periods of different artists. I don't expect people to just blindly follow what I do. It's a very kind of fair exchange. I make my music without compromise and people can check it out or not."
On whether he minds being criticized for his work:
Ihsahn: "Only very few people have reached through to me, I'm afraid. My wife is probably the only one who can actually get through to me when it comes to my own thing. I know it's a very uncharming feature. We've been working closely and creatively for over 20 years, so she knows me so well and knows my limitations and my strengths and she understands my kind of abstract concepts of things and she can add to that and make suggestions. She's such a invaluable piece of that process. But beyond that, reading criticism, I think it's not like I'm immune; it's very nice to have good reviews. For the most part, people are interested in the album and I get the opportunity to do it again."
On whether people like EMPEROR but not his solo work:
Ihsahn: "It depends. I think a lot of people might assume that what I do is kind of a different version, a cheap knock-off of what EMPEROR was, but I think for most people, it's something very different. Maybe this is from what you're reading, but my impression, I think people after all these years, they differentiate and know what my priorities are creatively. To be quite honest, I don't think my record label would continue to release my albums and do festivals and the promoters wouldn't pick me if people weren't interested. [Laughs]"
On the direction of his latest solo album, "Ámr":
Ihsahn: "I always have this tendency to create some kind of visual and sonic landscape to place an album in. I usually do a write-up of what kind of album I want to make before I actually start writing the music. I have a rather clear picture of what kind of atmosphere that I want to approach so that when I write music in that period, I can easily compare it to this original idea. If I write something that I might be happy with, but it doesn't fit, it's not the piece of that puzzle, then it's easier to recognize when I write something that is a piece of that puzzle because I come from that age where I related to 'albums.' I want albums to have certain individual songs, but they complete a whole."
"Ámr" was released in May via Candlelight/Spinefarm. The disc was recorded at Ihsahn's own Mnemosyne Studio, except for drum tracking, which was done at Sonic Attic Studios. Mixing was handled by Linus Corneliusson at Fascination Street Studios. Mastering was once again done by Jens Bogren.
"Ámr" was described in a press release as Ihsahn's "most eclectic and challenging to date." Its first single, "Arcana Imperii", features a guitar solo by OPETH's Fredrik Åkesson. The accompanying music video was created by Richard Oakes of Dark Fable Media.