Interview: Ihsahn

Discussion in 'Artist Reviews & Interviews' started by Alex, Oct 31, 2008.

  1. Alex

    Alex Administrator Super Moderator

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    Apr 19, 2004
    <div align="right"><img src="" alt="Ihsahn" />
    <b>Interview: Ihsahn</b>
    <i><font size="1">By DDDorian</font></i></div><div align="center">
    <div align="center">
    "Following on from his debut solo album 'The Adversary', this second opus builds on the experience IHSAHN has gained as a solo artist and presents a complex and enticing tapestry: blending textures of light and dark together into an album that is at once challenging and accessible; captivating and intensely moving. Musically, this album can be seen as a natural progression from 'The Adversary', but with a somewhat heavier touch - incorporating the subtleties of expression explored on his debut into a more recognisably 'extreme' framework." -official site
    <img style="padding:10px;" align="left" src="" alt="Ihsahn" /><span class="ivorange"></span>: Greetings, Ihsahn! It's an absolute pleasure to be speaking with you!

    <span class="ivred">Ihsahn</span>: Thanks. Same to you. I always prefer the more music and gear related talks.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: When I first started preparing for this interview it dawned on me that, for a guy who's only in his thirties, you've already achieved an amazing amount as a musician. How does it feel to know that you've recorded albums that have defined a genre and are now regarded as classics?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: In general, I think I’ve been very lucky having had this as a career since I was 16 when we signed to Candlelight in 1991. Very lucky considering; I’m from Norway (which in itself does not spell out "potential international music-career":)) and I started my career by playing one of the most infamous and un-commercial forms of music to date. Things are different now, but 1991 was Death Metal era, and Black Metal was close to nothing. Getting back to your question; it is a double-edged sword, I guess. I am of course proud of previous albums and things I’ve achieved. However, with Emperor kind of living a life on it’s own, it is sometimes like being my own little-brother, with all my current work being compared to things I did as a teenager. At 32 I do not feel retired, I am just as passionate about my music as I ever was and I still believe my best is yet to come! He He

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Some would (and did, at the time) argue that the intricate, bombastic nature of Emperor's later work was somewhat antithetical to the raw, single-minded ideology of "true" black metal. Do you agree with that statement?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: I would argue that having <u>rules</u> for what is "true" or "false" would be the antithesis of Black Metal. I always thought that "Do what Thou wilt shall be the whole of the law (Crowley)" was the name of the game!?! That’s what I did, anyway:)

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Is there any truth to the rumour that Ross Robinson was in talks to produce the ill-fated fifth Emperor album? He seems like an odd choice, to say the least.

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: There has been many rumors concerning that:) He came backstage after a show in LA in 1999, together with Casey Chaos from Amen, and said he would love to work with Emperor. However, we always liked doing the decision making on our own, so we said no thanks. To this day I´ve never worked with a producer, though I try to be one myself I guess:) Apparently, Ross got hate-mail for even suggesting working with Emperor, which is kind of stupid, as in all black-metal-ideology fairness, I think we were capable of deciding who and who not we wished to work with.<img style="padding:10px;" align="right" src="" alt="Ihsahn" />

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Over the years your lyrics have gone from being blunt and hateful to more esoteric, but as a solo artist you seem to be more direct than ever. Is this something that has happened consciously?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: When starting to write on my solo-material, I was getting somewhat fed up with a lot of nonsense music with no apparent stand in anything. So, I kind of set a goal for myself to be very direct and "in your face" with the lyrics, trying to make a point or two. I’ve been very inspired by Nietzsche doing these two albums and "Thus spake Zarathustra" in particular. Compared to my previous work, I think I succeeded to some extent in leaving out the grey-areas. Compared to f.ex Rage Against the Machine’s "Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me", I guess some lines during the album were excessive:)

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Now, onto your new album! Firstly, I have to ask, what's the meaning behind the title "<strong>angL</strong>"?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: It is just a word-play on "Angel". The big L at the end indicating a reverse meaning and pointing to a certain angel.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: The new album is decidedly more progressive than your first album, <strong>The Adversary</strong>. What influenced you to take that approach?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: I can honestly say that I have not had any intention of being very "progressive" with either album. Quite the contrary, as I’ve tried to be more focused and keeping to more traditional song-structures in style with my heroes from the 80’s. Though, limiting the amount of riffs in each song etc, has somehow inspired me to seek variation in the arrangement instead.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Lars K. Norberg from Spiral Architect plays bass this time around too. What was he like to work with?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: A very pleasant experience. I actually had all intentions of doing the bass myself this time too, but Asgeir (Mickelson-also Spiral Architect) and my wife persuaded me to try a different approach:) Hearing the first sketches from Lars I was immediately convinced. This was all over the internet though, so to this day I have never met him in person. Next album perhaps. He he

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Was it difficult to capture a "progressive" vibe on the record when the other musicians are hired guns playing along to tracks you wrote in the studio?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: That’s the thing with both Lars and Asgeir, they’ve both adapted and added perfectly to the material I presented. For Asgeir I pre-programmed all the drumparts and he would elaborate and develop that. As for Lars, I just sent mp3s of the pre-prod together with transcriptions of all guitar parts and he worked out different versions for me to choose from. Fantastic musicians!

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: When it comes to featured guest musicians, such as Mikael from Opeth on the latest album, do you write tracks with specific parts/musicians in mind, or is it just a matter of calling up your pals and saying "Hey, you gotta sing on my album"?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: As I had Garm sing a track on my first album, I kind of had Mikael in mind for the second one, as we had been talking about doing something together for a long time. Though, with his schedule these days, it was hard to say whether he could make it or not, so I wrote all the material regardless and rather picked the song I felt most natural for him to do when he found time. Very pleased with his contribution!

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Since the recording of the final Emperor album, <strong>Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise</strong>, you've worked in your own Symphonique Studios. Did you take any classes in studio work or are you self-taught?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: Apart from singing- and piano lessons, I’m mostly self-taught for music. For the studio work, I’ve been hanging over the shoulder of every engineer I’ve worked with asking questions and paying attention. As with so many creative things, it is learning by doing.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: How do you think your skill and "ear" for recording have improved over the years?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: Hmmm, with every step forward I feel I get two steps further from my ideals. It’s a gradual process I guess. It’s just that my standards and expectations grow faster than my skills:) That’s what you get when trying to wear all the hats at once…

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What's it like to work with your wife on projects like Peccatum? One would imagine that it presents certain unforseen challenges, heh.

    <img style="padding:10px;" align="left" src="" alt="Ihsahn" /><span class="ivred">I</span>: I’m blessed with a marriage that includes my best friend and my best colleague. I’m probably not the easiest person to be around in the studio but she has a way of getting the best out of me. We run things by each other whether we work on the same thing or separate albums.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Is it difficult to know when a band or project needs to be put to rest?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: It’s difficult all the way to the point where you make the decision. After that, I’ve had no regrets. The most important thing is keeping your heart in the work you do and not lose that by trying to do what everyone else thinks is right.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: It was also around the time of the <strong>Prometheus</strong>... album that you first started playing seven-string guitars. How did they affect your approach towards playing and songwriting?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: I found the 7string very intriguing from the first time I saw one and was thrilled when I bought one in the US in 1999. It inspired very much of the Prometheus album and I tried to use the extra range as an addition rather than just "transposing" riffs. It also affected my playing technique quite a bit. Being self-taught I had a "weak pinky", but the wide neck forced me to use this fourth finger much more, which has been very positive for my stretch-range and general technique.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: In general, who would you cite as your biggest guitar influences? Any guilty pleasures?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: There was of course no internet or similar sources for material when I started out playing, but I think I probably learned more from picking out things by ear instead of getting the tabs served all the time. I had the tab book for Iron Maiden’s "Seventh son.." album though, and I remember playing along to that for hours after school. Later I also got Malmsteen videos etc, but never got around to really focus on the shredding as I was always more into writing the songs. In terms of guitar style, my biggest influence has been Andy Larocque with his choice of notes but most importantly his passionate way of playing.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: If you had to pick any one track from your back catalogue that best represents you as a guitarist, which would you choose and why?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: Hard question, but I think I’ll go for a song called "Thus spake the nightspirit" from the second Emperor album. I think this holds a foundation for how I’ve organized and arranged my guitar parts later.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: You've been spotted with B.C. Rich, ESP and Jackson guitars in the past, but for quite a while now you've played and endorsed Ibanez. What initially attracted you to the brand and how did the endorsement come about?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: My first Ibanez was the Universe I bought back in ’99. I loved that from the start but an endorsement seemed way out of my league as I associated Ibanez with Steve Vai and his like. Still, my friend and a&r at Candlelight, Darren, hooked me up with the UK Ibanez-distributor and later I’ve been in touch with their LA office.<img style="padding:10px;" align="right" src="" alt="Ihsahn" />

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: What guides your choice when it comes to guitars? Are you particular about factors like scale length, body woods and electronics or are you more inclined to go with the overall "feel" of an instrument?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: I’ve always enjoyed a thin neck and never really enjoyed the more Gibson-type guitar, though nice to look at:) Apart from a B.C Rich Bich guitar I had, I’ve generally gone for the Strat-like body and really like the sharpened Ibanez RG series. I have a preference for the warm resonance of a mahogany body, though I have models with basswood or ash too, and the fretboard needs to be either rosewood or ivory. Always shunned maple fretboards. Not too particular about pick-ups and such as long as they sound decent. Different guitars for different uses.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: You also endorse both Engl amps and Line 6 modelling equipment. What is it about those particular products that appeal to you?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: My Engl Savage 120 is in a league of it’s own for me. Plugged straight in, with an Engl 4x12 with Vintage30’s, it is the essence of the tone I have in my head. What I love about this amp is that, no matter how much gain you apply, it still let the sound of the string through. It’s not just a hizzing wasp distortion, it sounds dynamic and powerful. It also has beautiful clean-tones (should I ever need them. He he). For the latest Emperor reunion shows, that amp was all I needed. I didn’t even bother bringing other pedals than my tuner:) In the studio, we also have a Marshall JCM 800 and an Orange Tiny Terror, both with matching cabinets, for variety. Guitar Rig 3 is also a great source for more experimental sounds.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: We can't help but notice that you've been seen with the RG2228 eight-string guitar recently. What are your thoughts on that particular instrument and did it make the recent album?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: No, I only got an 8string a couple of months ago. I met up with the Ibanez guys at the Key Club in LA before an Emperor show last year (2007) and I got to try an RG2228 that they got in to the office only hours before coming to meet me. They filmed me playing it on the soundcheck and that was used in the RG2228 video, hence I got many questions about it. I waited for a while to get one and in the end Ibanez decided to build me an LA custom 8string in stead. It is very similar to the original, but I went for a black mahogany body, inked rosewood fretboard and custom mother of pearl inlays. From the first moment I tried the RG2228 I noticed it was just as easily played as my 6 strings. Thin neck and low action. Now that I have played my own more, I enjoy the wide range, full mahogany tone and EMG pickup clarity. Just as inspiring as when I got my first 7string. The difference is, that with the 7string I could still play chords the way I used to, though transposed, but with the lower range of the 8 string I’m in bass-territory and must think differently when writing. I am working on my third solo-album now and this guitar will definitely play a major role. Thumbs up for Ibanez :)

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Do you work on technique or music theory at all these days? Do you have any formal music training?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: Unfortunately, it is many years since I worked on technique. I get a bit updated trough my tutoring though:) As for theory, I do not have any formal training. Me and my wife went for private lessons with a composer some years ago and I tend to read up on a lot of composition and orchestration in general, as I am always looking for new ways to approach my basic material.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: The tab book that accompanied the release of the Emperor best-of was excellent and quite in-depth; I really wish more tablature releases were so detailed. Are there plans for any more in the future?

    <img style="padding:10px;" align="left" src="" alt="Ihsahn" /><span class="ivred">I</span>: ThanksJ That was kind of my thought when deciding to do the book myself too. In my tutoring I came across so many horrible tabs and some students would even bring Emperor tabs they found on the Internet. You could say I was almost provoked into doing it…he he. I have no immediate plans for a new book, but I tend to score and tab all my material anyways these days, so it should be less work making an Ihsahn book than it was transcribing all the old Emperor songs dating as far back as my teens :)

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: You're also penning a monthly column for Guitar World, which caught me completely off guard. How did that come about?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: We visited the GW offices in NY with Emperor and did a feature and later they came to Norway and did a feature on angL and my solo work. Considering the high-profile names I’ve seen in the GW lesson pages earlier, I was caught off guard too when they asked me to do a column. Of course I took it as a great compliment and do my best to fulfill the task :)

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Having covered classic and now progressive metal as a solo artist, what can fans expect from a possible third Ihsahn album?

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: Well, there is of course the new 8string…he he, and I hope to be focusing on some of the more raw energy of this genre. Apart from that I can’t really promise anything other than that I will make it to the best of my abilitites. In spite of all theory and technique music has a tendency to become what it has to be and live a life of it’s own.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Any chance of seeing Ihsahn perform live, either with a fully-fledged tour or some one-off dates? ("An Evening with Ihsahn", perhaps?)

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: A full tour is out of the question, but I am considering doing some select shows at some point. It is really a matter of finding time and the right people to do it. Meanwhile I’ll stay here in the studio working on new stuff.

    <span class="ivorange">SS</span>: Finally, any last words to the readers of

    <span class="ivred">I</span>: Many thanks for inviting me to do this. I think it is great to have a source like this where music, playing and will to improve is in focus rather than the more superficial aspects of the music-industry. My sincere regards to all the readers of Sevenstring!

    <div align="center">
    <a href="" target="_TOP"><span class="ivred">Ihsahn Official Website</span></a>
  2. Cancer

    Cancer Cancer:The Crucifuct

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    Feb 2, 2005
    Baltimore, MD
    Absolute, 100&#37;, thumbs up on this article, dude. Thanks.
  3. JJ Rodriguez

    JJ Rodriguez Contributor

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    Aug 16, 2005
    Holy shit balls, sweet interview. I'm going to have to find this tab book he speaks of.
  4. DDDorian

    DDDorian Mantis Toboggan, M.D Super Moderator

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    Jun 11, 2006
    Middle of nowhere, Australia
    I'm really happy with how this turned out. Once again, many, many thanks to Ihsahn, and of course everyone here for coming up with questions. Hope you all dig it:kd:
    Mr. S likes this.
  5. Mr. S

    Mr. S tacos?

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    Oct 21, 2005
    Cambridge, UK
    DDDorian, you sir are my hero! :wub:
  6. cev

    cev Trollhammaren!!

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    Jun 21, 2006
    Awesome interview dude! Can't wait to hear the 8 on the new album!
  7. arktan

    arktan Icnomptenent

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    Mar 26, 2008
    Damn! I too have to buy that tab-book :lol:

    Thanks for this, Ihsahn. And also thanks to you, DDDorian.
  8. stuh84

    stuh84 The Viking himself Contributor

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    Nov 1, 2004
    Sheffield, UK
    Great interview, very thorough and the guy likes to talk gear, bonus :D
  9. Johann

    Johann Midnight Walker

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    Sep 13, 2008
    awesome interview!

    angL is a great album. :)
  10. Apophis

    Apophis Banned

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    Jan 8, 2005
    great :metal:
  11. daemon barbeque

    daemon barbeque Banned

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    May 24, 2007
    Côte d'Azur
    Thanx alot DDD and Ihsahn.
    Really enjoyed the read! :metal:
  12. zimbloth

    zimbloth Nick // Axe Palace Vendor Forum MVP

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    Aug 3, 2005
    Awesome! Thanks Isahn and DDD :metal:
  13. Naren

    Naren OldschoolGhettostyle

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    Aug 21, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Great interview. :yesway: Thanks, DDDorian and Ihsahn.
  14. Zepp88

    Zepp88 Arktanian Diplomat Contributor

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    Apr 17, 2007
    A Technological Deadzone
  15. bulletbass man

    bulletbass man Classical & Metal

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    Jul 14, 2008
    King of Prussia
    This interview was great!
  16. Meldville


    Likes Received:
    Oct 19, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Awesome interview, hands-down my favorite one thus far!
  17. Diogene303

    Diogene303 Regular

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    Aug 27, 2007
    Great interview ,

    I so like Ihsahn and all the Emperor stuff and also a big fan of samoth's playing

    The new album "angL" sounds cool !
  18. Groff

    Groff Medicine Chief/RHLC© Contributor

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    Jul 10, 2007
    South Jersey
    Wow! Excellent interview!
  19. sepherus

    sepherus The Crimson Comedian Contributor

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    Nov 1, 2007
    Syracuse, NY
    Sweet! One of my favorite bands ever. His style has been a big influence on my writing and playing. Thanks a bunch to both DDDorian and Ihsahn!
  20. auxioluck

    auxioluck Metal Teddy Bear

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    Jun 29, 2007
    Amazing. Awesome interview.

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