Greece's "TV War" recently conducted an interview with EMPEROR frontman Ihsahn (real name: Vegard Sverre Tveitan). You can watch the entire chat below (the interview starts at the 11:30 mark). A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether it was deliberate that his 2016 "Arktis" studio album and 2018's "Àmr" sound different from one another:
Ihsahn: "Very much so. As a consequence of working solo and not having that push-pull — apart from Heidi, my wife; we collaborate on everything — it's become, even since my first solo album, this concept of forming an idea of a total expression of an album before I even start writing, kind of a framework. It can be many things. It differs. The scenario differs from album to album. You mention 'Artkis' is very open. It has these icy, open landscapes. The lyrics, the metaphors are placed in that scenario, the images and also the sound is very open, and as you can see from the cover artwork from my latest one, the idea was to create something that happened inside a closed-off space. The cover artwork, it's very much inside, all the sounds and even the use of reverb on the album, it's more close and intimate-sounding."
On whether it's a personal goal to not sound like anyone else, let alone care what his fans want from him:
Ihsahn: "It's not deliberately spiteful. I think it's more the other way around. Obviously, I like to think that I have the utmost respect for fans of this style of music who made it possible for me to spend all my time doing this music. When you get to sell albums and play shows like I've been able to, that gives me the opportunity to do it again. But I think, given my background with EMPEROR and everything, it was very uncompromising. I think it's not that we were particularly skilled musicians or anything, but it was very pure in that sense. It was not created to have any kind of success. At least in the beginning, there was no financial motivation because there was no money to be made. There was nothing. There was just this passion for this music and this vision to do it. I think by doing that, the end result was something that was perhaps something new. People, I guess, knew they could trust it because it was not sold to them. It was just something that you discover and you connect with. That's kind of the philosophy that I've tried to have all through my career. I think that is something that is…how can I put it? If I started to think and make compromises musically now to please expectations of what some market is, I think that would be a very big injustice to the trust I hope I've built with the people who listen to my music. I think the most decent thing I can do is to do my absolute best. And I don't do my best if I make compromises for commercial means."
On his thought that he cannot be a black metal artist if he allows people to tell him what to do:
Ihsahn: "In a simple sense, yes. It's often a paradox, I think. There's so many preconceptions. I've had all these 'What do these people think now that you have saxophones in your music? What will your old EMPEROR fans think?' Given my background, would they expect me to care? I think it would be very sad if myself and any of my colleagues from that time — you also have bands like I often refer to my friend Garm [real name: Kristoffer Rygg] from ULVER and some others like him as well. They're coming from this original black metal scene and end up doing more experimental music. I've been asked so many times, 'How come so many of these Norwegian black metal guys are doing all this kind of strange or electronic or experimental music?' In my view, considering everyone except Euronymous [Øystein Aarseth] from MAYHEM, were basically 15, 16, 17 years-old, and we were already pushing the envelope of what we can do, how extreme, how far can we get this music? And it would be very sad if you stopped that process at 16. You're just getting started. In my view, I think it's strange that not more people from that original scene continued that journey, that passion for what lies beyond."
On the status of his side project with TRIVIUM's Matt Heafy:
Ihsahn: "It's still in the works. Me and Matt started talking about this back in, I think, in 2012. And now it seems it's finally coming together. We're sending files and stuff back and forth. All the songs are more or less there. But there are also label things, there are timelines. There's a new TRIVIUM record coming. Stuff like that. It will definitely get there."
On the status of the proposed side project with JUDAS PRIEST's Rob Halford and BEHEMOTH's Nergal:
Ihsahn: "This is originally something me and Rob started talking about in 2001. That's long ago. I saw this comment, someone reminded me of some comments that he'd love to do an album with me, which, of course, is a huge compliment. Suddenly one night he called me. Since then we've kind of been back and forth, but that was when he was not in PRIEST, it was when he had a break from PRIEST. Since then, he got back in PRIEST and schedules, all that. It's not something you want to push. You want to have that thing. Then, recently, Rob is very open-minded and keeps track of everything that happens in the metal scene in all genres, really. Of course, he talked to Nergal and me and Nergal are friends. I thought it would be great, the three of us to do something together at some point. Let's hope. Nothing particular is planned, but we're kind of talking."
On whether he sees EMPEROR as a "legacy band" like TWISTED SISTER considering they have no plans to release material but continue to perform live:
Ihsahn: "I don't really see it like that, but I get your point. I think it's been very important not to become — I'm not saying this about TWISTED SISTER, but some bands, I think to try to relive the glory days, in a sense. Some bands can end up being like a parody of themselves. I think it's been very important for us to not overdo it. It's not like we put on the [corpse] paint and everything. We do it on the terms of where we are, but kind of respectfully. The most important thing for us, I think, and for me personally, when we decided to do more live shows, was really to, at rehearsals, to feel 'Do I still connect? Can I perform these songs honestly and truthfully and not just gimmicky?' Because it was created in a different time and in a different life. Then, I very soon found as it is with music, in a similar way to IRON MAIDEN or JUDAS PRIEST and the songs I grew up, when I hear them live, I'm there. You're there in that exact moment. In a different way, but still similar, when playing these old songs, especially live, it doesn't really matter that it's not current music because for us and the many times we played them, all the memories connected to the times we were actually playing the music. It's not a conscious thing remembering the lyrics or the riffs. It's embedded in the DNA in a sense. It's kind of connected like that. That made all the difference. I feel that when we perform them, it's a very genuine expression, but as for making new music, it's really a matter of EMPEROR ended in a sense where I ended up doing all the music. There's nothing with how I make my new music as a solo artist, there's nothing standing in the way. Where we are differently in music, what we wanted to create now, I feel for myself, with no disrespect to the other guys, I feel writing within that format would be a limitation to what I would initially do with my solo music."
Ihsahn's seventh solo album, "Ámr", came out in May 2018 via Candlelight/Spinefarm.