Radio Metal recently conducted an interview with former EMPEROR frontman Ihsahn (real name: Vegard Sverre Tveitan). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Radio Metal: The album is called “Eremita”, which is Latin for “hermit.” That’s quite an obvious question, but do you see yourself as a hermit?
Ihsahn: I guess artistically, yes, I would say that. In a more mundane way, it relates to me working very much alone. I follow my own path, I don’t really need to merge and mingle. But the title reflects the album on more important levels, I think. Nietzsche has been a huge influence on me. He was like a philosophical hermit himself. He wrote about Zarathustra, about the hermit existence. Throughout my career, I’ve always come back to these mythological figures, if you will. Prometheus, Icarus or Lucifer, all those outsiders who chose to go apart from conformity and the collective to make up their own mind about stuff. It reflects the concept of the album, with this protagonist escaping into the forest. It was very natural to have that title.
Radio Metal: You said about this album, “I really feel this is some of my most inspired work yet,” which is a classic thing for an artist to say when they release an album. But I don’t remember you making that kind of statement in the past. What is so special about this album?
Ihsahn: I guess there are many reasons. Having finished the first three albums, the trilogy, I ended up in a place I really enjoyed musically. I have the foundation of music, the roots are extreme metal, but I have a new playground to experiment with it. I think I took on this new album with more confidence. I’m feeling more in control regarding the extent to which I can push the album. With this confidence came the thought that I could dig into some of the earlier influences of my career. I could go back to black metal, which I guessed I steered away from for a long time. I’m feel like I’m talking bull right now! Basically, it’s just a feeling. When I listen to the album, I feel it goes deeper than my earlier work. Not that I’m not happy about the earlier things, but there’s just something about this album. I guess I came very close to what I had planned to make. That’s how I try to evaluate my success: how close did I get this time? [laughs]
Radio Metal: You said in an interview, about the trilogy you concluded with “After”, that your initial decision to do a trilogy first was kind of to reinvent or rebuild a musical platform for yourself. Can we say that you needed those three albums to find out who you are musically?
Ihsahn: Yes and no. I wanted to give myself the time span of those three albums to kind of explore the potential of what I could do alone, without anyone mixing in and putting their thoughts into it. [laughs] But it was also to sort of regroup and not make it an extension of my work in EMPEROR. I wanted to make something solid for myself, that could stand well on its own two feet. On these levels, it was very important. Now that I’ve come this far, that distance doesn’t really matter that much to me anymore. I’m more at ease with my relationship to the early part of my career. On a more practical level, I also didn’t want to go and play live shows with just one or two albums, play five songs from the first album and then do EMPEROR covers for the rest of the night. I didn’t want this to be a spin-off of EMPEROR. I wanted this to be something real.
Radio Metal: Last time we spoke, two years ago, for the release of After, you said, “Nowadays, people tend to see black metal as a more traditional type of metal because everyone knows what it is about and it is often defined by what it should or should not be. This goes completely against what I always believed black metal to be. For me, black metal always represented the idea of musical freedom. Now that there are so many rules, it is no longer black metal.” Could we say that what killed the spirit of black metal is that someone decided to name it black metal?
Ihsahn: Not necessarily. It’s just a label — and it’s very subjective. I can only understand it in my own way. Basically, no one has the blueprint of what black metal is, and what it’s not. For me, black metal is a feeling, you know? How I feel that and how I express that is no one else’s business. I don’t make a big show of calling my music this or that, because for me, it’s beside the point. But if there’s something that I associate with being black metal, it’s a certain feeling. If the music makes me feel like that, to me, it’s black metal. I don’t care what they say or do, what they initially thought or what roots they followed; it just makes me feel that way or not. I don’t care if people tell me what I do is not black metal, because there’s a saxophone, and that’s not allowed. Why should I care? In my own interpretation, one of the most black metal songs I ever did is “The Grave”, from this record. If there’s one song in my career that I would call very much the essence of black metal, it would be that song.
Read the entire interview from Radio Metal.