On the heels of his finished trilogy, Ihsahn’s ‘Eremita’ is set to see a European release date of June 18, and June 19 in North America, via Candlelight records. If you are deep into your Metal, then you’ve at least heard the name ‘Jens Bogren’. For those who don’t know, Jens is on the fast track to becoming one of the ‘go-to’ producers in the Metal industry, producing such masterpieces with the likes of: Opeth, Amon Amarth and Kreator to name a few. You can almost instantly recognize Bogren’s work upon hearing it. Being pleased with Bogren’s work on 2010’s ‘After’, he again acquired the mans talents…
‘My idea for this album was that I wanted it to sound organic as well as dynamic. I wanted the drums to sound like DRUMS. I wanted the guitars to be LOUD and sound like they are being played through a tube amplifier, and I tried to record it that way. After hearing the final product, I think he [Bogren] really managed to retain this essence. My drummer commented, “Hey, this sounds like me playing my drums in a room!”, and that’s kind of rare these days! [laughs]’.
I mentioned that many double kick-drum tracks lately are sounding more like cardboard boxes…
‘Yeah… some people are even doing that with the toms as well. Ah… it just doesn’t feel right to me, but each to his own. I enjoy it more when it actually sounds like the instrument… maybe that’s just me getting old, but you’ve got me beat! [laughs].’
This time around, Ihsahn commissioned Devin Townsend to guest on ‘Eremita’, as Devin did with Ihsahn on 2011’s ‘Deconstruction’. I’ve always thought of Ihsahn as being a very serious and somewhat of a reserved individual, and polar opposite of all around ‘Mad/Evil scientist’ type that is Mr. Townsend. Oil and water?
‘I am very pleased with the way it turned out Of course, Devin and I have very different personalities. I am much more of a quiet type, and Devin is a very energetic individual. I’ve met him on a few different occasions, and he’s just a really awesome guy. In spite of our contrasting personalities and our musical expressions being very different, I can relate to and understand the way he works. I think it’s because we share the same level of passion to create music, regardless of where it takes us. He also has his own studio where he does whatever it takes. If he has to bring in musicians or do it all himself… it doesn’t matter. Like myself, his key focus is getting the music done. I admire his VERY honest expression through his music… he has no problem daring to be who he really is, and I truly respect that.’
On 2010’s ‘After’, Ihsahn shocked [some of] his fans by including saxophone on the album. Why did this horn instrument rear it’s presence on the new album, and why Jurgen Munkeby ?
‘I guess that some people would think it’s because I’m trying to shock or provoke, by doing something crazy. That’ not it at all. The saxophone is a very emotional instrument, which seems to stir up a lot of emotions in people… for better or worst. [laughs] People either love it or hate it. Jens Bogren [Eremita Producer]… He HATES the saxophone! He and his wife have this thing where they are in league with their shared hatred of the saxophone. ‘Eremita‘ changed that. He had to go home every night and tell his wife that he’s actually enjoying how the saxophone is sounding on the album. [hearty laughter] My inspiration in choosing the saxophone for expression, goes back to the mid-nineties when I was listening to a lot of my favorite Norwegian saxophonist, Jan Garbarek. His is very renowned, all ECM records. For me, his music paints such a desolate landscape that carries such a sultry and soulful element, which I love. After the post-apocalyptic idea I had to end the trilogy I was doing, the came from these huge dead landscapes. I knew it was the right time to implement this sound. As a result of quite a few lucky coincidences, I asked Jurgen to play on the album… actually it started with more of a recommendation from an acquaintance, who happens to be a jazz keyboardist. I didn’t know any Sax players at the time, so he recommended three different musicians. It turned out that Jurgen was the only one of the three, who could easily relate to my musical expression. Jurgen is a fantastic and advanced musician, whose ability to interpret music and ideas is… EXCEPTIONAL. Since ‘After‘ , we’ve [Jurgen & Ihsahn] become very good friends, and it was natural for me to invite him on this record as well. He was able to add that, um… crazy texture, you know? He has such a dramatic way of playing. What a contribution. I like bringing in guest musicians… it allows me to enjoy listening to the album more. I guess it gives me the opportunity to listen to other parts and enjoy someone else’s influence and not just focusing on how I phrased that guitar part, or how I vocalized this other part. [laughs]’
If you are a fan of Ihsahn, you are aware of how difficult it has been to catch him live since going solo. Why would he wait so long to perform solo in North America?
‘It took me a long time to do solo shows ANYWHERE. It was intentional. When I set out to do the trilogy, It was with in mind that I needed to give myself time to build my musical platform. I was determined not to do any live shows with material from just the first or second albums of the trilogy. I refused to be ‘That-guy’… you know, go out and perform five or six songs off the new album and then just churn out Emperor covers the rest of the night. I really didn’t want to be that person, and it was important to me to establish something that would stand very well on it’s own, before I brought it to the stage.
At 2011’s ProgPower USA, among bewilderment of many attendees, Ihsahn was tasked with being the headliner. How in the name of Odin did this manifest?
‘I guess there was some sort of mix-up, and they needed a headliner. I didn’t know what to expect because my music is so different from what you would typically see at this festival. I was somewhat of a wildcard, I guess. I enjoyed it. Many of the people who attended [ProgPower 2011] had no idea who the hell I was, or what my background consisted of. I found the direct musical communication liberating. I played my stuff and people reacted to it in a very spontaneous manner, rather than reacting to all the nostalgia shroudingEmperor and blah, blah, blah. When Jens Bogren mixed and mastered ‘After‘, he had NEVER heard Emperor. I was like… AHHH! That’s fantastic! This is GREAT! I thought this will allow him to look at the album for what it is, and interpret without preconception… and I REALLY appreciated that.
Ihsahn and wife Ihriel teamed up in 2003 to form their own Label/Studio entitled ‘Mnemosyne Productions‘. With this in mind, I wanted to know Ihsahn’s perception of what fate lies ahead for record labels. Without missing a beat, Ihsahn dove head first into the topic of illegal downloading…
‘I must admit, I’ve spent a lot of time pissed off [laughs] at the whole downloading thing. In the end, I came to the conclusion that you either have to change peoples morals… which has been attempted since the beginning of time, or you just have to put it [album] on the internet. It just has to be limited. It’s similar to the debut of cassette tapes where you could copy vinyl. It caused a big rift and people started to think everything was just going to go downhill. Then came tape-trading, which helped with exposure… but at the end of the day, theft is theft. It still kind of pisses me off… not so much that it happened, but the crime of digitally stealing an album isn’t all that different from when we were tape-trading. The difference is that the consequences are much more severe these days because it gets shared with the ENTIRE world. What also pisses me off is all the excuses… like “Oh, it’s because of all the big/bad record companies!” NO! The big/bad record companies have nothing to do with all this indie music we’re [Metal collectively] doing. As a result, bands have to charge more for live shows. This affects many festivals, and they end up going under. Then you have these record companies trying to sign bands to ‘360-deals‘ where they take money from the live shows, the merchandise… EVERYTHING that they never used to do in the past. I’m so tired of all these excuses! If people illegally download music… don’t try to pass it off as a fucking virtue! You know?!? Beyond that, we [Ihsahn & Ihriel] are running Mnemosyne Productions. You can call it a label, but we work with other companies for distribution and production. [physical product] With the increase of import tax levels, it’s ridiculous to try and run it ourselves from one of the most expensive countries in the world! [Norway] Basically, Mnemosyne Productions serves as an umbrella for all of our [Ihsahn & Ihriel] musical projects and aspirations.
If it’s not enough that the Husband and Wife team share duties at the helm of Mnemosyne Productions, but they were also in the band ‘Peccatum’ together. We haven’t seen anything from this partnership since 2006…
‘Mnemosyne Productions took over and consumes a lot of time. I think it came to a point where we [Ihsahn & Ihriel] felt more restricted than free within the confines of the band. Now instead of just concentrating on one band, I’m doing solo stuff, Ihriel is doing solo stuff, soundtracks, production, etc,etc. Occasionally we still do stuff together. A few years ago, we did an album together called ‘Hardingrock‘, that saw us get together with the most well known Norwegian folk musician. He’s considered a cultural institution, and he’s a fantastic human being. On this album we ended up reinterpreting all this ancient Norwegian folk music. Right now we [Mnemosyne Productions] are wrapping up music we did with an author… it’s like a soundtrack to poetry. So, we get to broaden our horizons and stretch our creative legs. Recently we’ve [Mnemosyne Productions] recorded and produced an album with a band named ‘Orkenjott ‘. They’re a band of young men with some… um… strange music.
… I couldn’t help myself and had to interject. It’s no surprise that Ihsahn has a rather broad musical pallet, and for him to deem it as ‘strange’ music… I would be more than curious to take a listen…
[Laughs]. No, it’s not strange… bad choice of words. [laughs] It’s just that they are very funny guys. To clarify, they’re all Norwegian, but most of their concept is based on the desert, camels… all that kind of stuff. They have an oriental theme going through their music, mixed with Norwegian influence. They even have some hillbilly cowboy stuff, which is quite crazy… but it’s been received pretty well in Norway so far. Their vinyl is even beating [sales] the new Leonard Cohen album!
Now the part I’ve been anxiously waiting for. I wanted to discuss the following with Ihsahn. During an interview with Rob Halford [Judas Priest/Halford], I had mentioned that I had heard at some point that he [Halford] wanted to work with Ihsahn in an extreme metal project. Rob then told me that it’s true and he would love to work with Ihsahn. Rob also went on to state that he has great respect for Ihsahn, and considered him a visionary… Whoa!
‘ I’m glad to hear he still remembers, becuase I haven’t been in touch with him for a while! I think the last time we spoke about this was after I did my second solo album. I was just thinking about this the other day! Man, that would REALLY be something! I would LOVE to do that! I was speaking to some of my English friends that may be meeting him soon, and asked them to please remind him that this can be fulfilled… LET’S DO THIS! I have to be honest though, I was freaked out the first time he called. I had absolutely no idea he was going to do this. One night while having some friends over, the phone rang. I picked up, “Hello, this is Rob Halford…” I was like… *GASP*, and frantically started pointing at the phone and waving to my friends… I didn’t even know what to say. I’ve had the honor of meeting him a few times, and I found him to be a really down to earth type of guy. You can imagine… I said, “Sorry Mr. Halford if I seem a little strange, but you’re THE GOD OF METAL and have been doing Metal since before I was born… so again, apologies if I’m being weird…” [laughs]
Ihsahn reaches out…
Mr. Halford… you know how to get in touch with me… Hopefully at some point we will be able to make this happen!
What are your [readers] thoughts. Would YOU like to see the Metal God team up with Ihsahn to bring an extreme project to fruition… or do you think that would bring a violent rapture?