Interview with Ihsahn
Both the former and new album covers are depicted in black and green-yellowed shades. Our universe was born in chaos that is progressively transformed in order, which ultimately ends up in equilibrium. Is the IX-Equilibrium related to the balance of the nine planets in our solar system and, perhaps, the cosmic dimension that has always coexisted with Emperor? What changes do you think the new millennium will bring and what would you like to see changed in society?
Concerning the album, IX is used for different symbolic reasons of greater and lesser importance, as well as simpler reasons like the fact that the album is released in 1999, was mastered on the 9th of January 1999, in 9 hours and, coincidentally, has 9 tracks. Other aspects are revealed by different numbers in combination in the lyrics; it can be linked to many theories, I suppose. In general, the title reflects much of the contents on the album – both musically and lyrically – and the search for the highest balance. And even if 9 is the highest number in our numerical system, we mustn’t forget that to every theory there’s a paradox, so that’s why we use the Roman IX.
As for my expectations/predictions for the forthcoming millennium, I have not given this enough thought as to say something interesting and cleaver about in an interview. There are many things that I would like to see changed in society but, in general, I would like to see society turning attention to the greater emotional and spiritual values of life, rather than the constant materialistic crave.
In your lyrics you often express the wish to be at one with Nature. In what way does its power influence your life and world-view? Do you think you could sever your ties to modern society and isolate yourself by leading a life away from all the noise, pollution and double standards of this so-called civilised world?
I think the relation to – and impulses from – Nature makes you realise the presence of something greater and how small man really is. I think many have looked up on the stars experiencing the natural beauty of that which is not man-made and felt a bit less important to the world as a whole. I think it is important to see things in this perspective at times, even though one might easily forget, as it might teach us to be more grateful for what we have been given.
Though it sounds appealing to jump off the modern life wagon from time to time, I suppose most people (myself included) are too dependent upon the inventions of our time, as we have not learned to cope without them.
Do you believe in a divine creation claiming that all beings were created by an entity, or do you find the scientific theories that say that life arose as a gradual and slow organisation of matter – leading to the first protocells with subsequent evolution – to be a theory of a more rational nature? In case you believe in the former, do you think civilisation will ever be able to have some kind of contact with it?
That which science can not prove is considered to be paranormal, superstition, divine, etc. Before science gave man the opportunity to fly this was considered to be witchcraft. Science can answer more and more of the difficult questions, but there are still a lot of questions. And that which created what lies behind the Xs and Ys in the formulas? Science can, to some extent, explain how our senses work, but it can not tell me why and how I feel the sounds, colours, smells, etc. And, even if it could, I would still be amazed by these wonders.
Why do you often portray an image of a sorcerer? Are you involved with Magic?
I believe that my impression of a sorcerer is from 1993 and I have had quite some different visual approaches since then.
My interest for Magic has been quite variable over the years and mostly concerned with reading books on the subject. I think my attitude today has much more to do with my spiritual self and less with imagery and effects.
Who is the emperor you relate to and his empire beyond that, usually, turned up in your lyrics and who did come up with the name?
I think it was Mortiis who suggested the name Emperor and, since then, we have used the terms of “emperor” and “empire” in all symbolic ways that we found suitable for our purpose.
Emperor’s most enticing element is the almost palpable atmosphere you so uniquely create. Where do you tend to take inspiration from?
It is very hard to point out any concrete inspirational sources, as we write music from a mixture of all the influences we get – be that from great experiences of some kind or simple small things. Playing one or two notes on the guitar can sometimes be very inspiring and open up for a flow of riffs, whereas others it can make you put your guitar away for a couple of days.
Do you think you have achieved your greatest accomplishment in terms of production, music and lyrics with IX-Equilibrium? How was it like recording at Akkerhaugen Lydstudio and do you have any personal favourite track?
I think the new album is a bit beyond the terms of Black Metal. We have used a more “all over” Metal influence, ranging from strict Heavy to Trash/Death Metal. After finishing an album, there are always things one could have wished to do differently, but I feel we have achieved more of what we wanted, production-wise, with the new studio situation and the pre-work we did for this album. Also, I think we have developed as musicians and both music and lyrics are more mature and of greater variety this time.
My personal favourite on the album is An Elegy of Icaros, as I am very satisfied with the song structure and also the dynamic range.
Alver has left due to practical reasons. Have you found a replacement?
Yes, we have hired a guy called Tyr as a session live bass player. He has no prior involvement in Black Metal but, nonetheless, he’s a very skilled bassist due to his background in more Progressive Metal.
How do you look upon Black Metal as a whole? Did you ever envision writing music that lacked its otherworldly grip?
Over these last few years I have started to see Black Metal more and more as just another music label, and I care more for how things sound and what emotional appeal they have, rather than what they’re called. The way I see it, most musical genres have some good musical elements and I really hope that I can explore them all in my future musical work.
What does suicide, as a concept, mean to you?
When it comes to an issue like suicide, it is very individual and can not be generalised, and if someone is in the situation that they consider it I think they can do it without a quick general remark of my subjective opinion.
What can you tell me about Thou Shalt Suffer’s current situation and how much has the music evolved from its early experimental days to a newborn classical project? Are you still planning to release the planned 7″ on Nocturnal Art Productions?
I have picked up the work again and now I try to score it properly for an orchestra, even though it will be recorded with samplers and synthesizers – but in order to be theoretically possible for a real orchestra to play it. The material has changed very much and the greatest part of it is all new (even the title has changed). I hope to finish the album this year, but I feel like I am repeating myself by saying that.
There will be no re-releases or old material on the album.
Recently, you’ve established your own studio, Symphonique. Is it merely for your own productions or do you consider working with other artists as a producer/engineer?
The studio is something I have, gradually, built over the years. I have already done a demo for another band there, but I think it will be used only for things I am involved with myself. It is a very useful tool for song-writing and trying out ideas, as you kind of get the studio result straight away.
In the past you worked with projects like Ildjarn, Wongraven and Zyklon-B, but now you also have Peccatum. How do you look upon them today and what was the most gratifying to work with?
It has, of course, been interesting to work with other musicians, but I must admit that I do not enjoy having a passive part in a band. So, among the above mentioned, it is really Peccatum that has been a real challenge. Peccatum is as important to me as Emperor and also very new and inspiring. Strangling from Within is just the beginning for Peccatum.
Tell me about your projects for the near future.
First of all, we have to work out the upcoming tours for both Peccatum and Emperor and, in-between, I try to work on the Thou Shalt Suffer album (plus some other ideas).
I hope you will enjoy the new album and that you come to see us on tour.