There are many conquerors throughout history, conquerors who both desecrate and aggregate. There are conquerors whose exploits don’t necessarily have to be witnessed, yet their follies continue to trickle down throughout the generations and immortality ensues. The subjugators who still continue to trounce over our black metal hearts, are a small band you may have heard of…. We talk of Emperor “Enlightening the night with pagan flames. Heathen barbarism is once again on the rise and they will bring back the forgotten past of strength, pride, and victory”. The talk that has been trickling through the legions of black metal fans of late is the first Australian tour for Emperor. Merely talking about Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk was giving me goosebumps as Sentinel Daily (whose motto is quite fitting here) caught up with Ihsahn who was describing my evening in full. We will all become victim to the true Norwegian spirit….. Giggity.
How are you all feeling about bringing Emperor to Australia for the first time, in 2019? “I think we are all very excited to go, it’s such a long time to travel, it takes a lot longer to make arrangements for a trip like this; however since I had the opportunity to play in Australia last year with my solo efforts, on that experience alone I was able to vouch for the organisation and the practical aspects of everything being top notch on all levels, the fans were great – I had an amazing time so it kind of helps and gives you motivation. We do very few shows with Emperor, we are very selective with what we do, but based on my experience from travelling previously, it all finally came together nicely”.
The band have had a long history; accomplishments and challenges, dedicated fans who live and breathe this music, no matter how much it matures – with this in mind, where does Emperor stand in the current climate and why? “We are in an extremely privileged position – a very old band, there are a lot of people who have formed a relationship with this music and as time has passed more people who had spent their youth listening to this music and continue to do so – the music has had a long time to settle in and have that impact on someone. We had come from a time before Facebook, where things worked a little slower – we were in a time where people actually built a relationship to full albums and now we are in this great position where we can now pick and choose what we want to do – visit new places and play exciting shows to people who are very dedicated (all around the world) to this band. How this stands in today’s climate – I mean you have Dimmu Borgir releasing a new album and are in full world tour mode; for us it’s just getting together and playing the old songs – without the pressure. We really just do it for our own pleasure”.
The future of the band – would it be fair to say that Emperor are indeed eternally preserved? “Absolutely, I’ve been doing my solo project longer than Emperor were active – we were active for ten years – I’ve been doing solo projects for over fifteen – for me, that is a priority. I have done seven albums and I am very comfortable being a solo artist without the compromise with having more people involved” [Laughs]
Emperor; the upper echelons of the black metal hierarchy. Tradition is important within this genre. When you’re out touring the band and playing live – how important is tradition playing the songs as is, as recorded? Do you allow for some movement or are you strict and keep it exactly how it was made in that moment in time “I think we try to stay very true to the original songs, for our sake but also for the fans who have that strong connection to the music. When it comes to my solo stuff I like to take the liberty to shake things up a bit – some music is best as a recorded piece and you may have to rearrange for a live setting but Emperor is very much produced in a rehearsal space with limited technology. They were made in an age when pre-production was done as a band and then went to a recording. These days we make albums then we have to teach ourselves how to play them live [Laughs] so we try to stay very true to it and the formula – reliving that point in time. For our own sake the reason we play these songs so intensively, because the dynamics of playing them together, we’ve done it so much and even now you may not have played these songs for over twenty years – it’s programmed into your muscle memory, so all that becomes part of it. That was a challenge – we were all in a different time when we wrote these songs and I was thinking, can I still perform and express these songs and atmospheres with integrity and an honesty to channel them through to the fans and I was positively surprised that it is just so programmed in our bodies – the atmosphere was already there, we didn’t need to find it, it was very natural – it is in our DNA”.
Do you have a special relationship to a certain album out of the four that you enjoy playing live? “For some reason most of the Anthem… songs we’ve played in great volume, a huge portion in all our live sets in recent years and there is just something about those songs that are just so live friendly. And I guess also, the debut – it was compiled from many previously recorded songs where as Anthems… was the first album we wrote as one piece. It comes together so nicely and it was still so very live orientated when we recorded it”.
The impact and legacy of Emperor? “It is frozen in time – in a way. In a good way, I’d like to say, because it is always frustrating, considering the age of the music of an inactive band and the attention it gets for free [Laughs], the lengths I have to go through to promote my solo work, wow – where as Emperor just gets sailed away [Laughs] – playing festivals both with my solo work and then Emperor on the same bill – I mean it is what it is. Look, I am incredibly lucky, I’ve been able to play in one band, ended that band and I’m still here playing the music I love playing both with Emperor and my own. I get to do both – I get to play Emperor, the music of my youth – music which is now frozen in time and yet still so powerful and I also get to get out my creativity with my solo work, it’s a win-win”.
Interesting yeah, Emperor is it’s own entity, and an institution really – trying to separate yourself from that name, how difficult has that been? As there are still recent tour posters with the Emperor logo underneath your solo tour – how have you worked with that over the years – do you feel there will be a time where that logo doesn’t have to be there anymore? “For the most part and for the Australian tour in 2018 – I’ve never requested the logo, I’ve also tried to keep it separate but it’s hard for people to dissociate. In the beginning on my solo career I was more conscious about it and deliberately trying to keep it separate but I realised that I can’t treat myself as two different people especially now as I am responsible for keeping the Emperor phenomenon alive. It was a sore spot in the beginning of my career in fear of being overshadowed by my… youth [Laughs] but creatively, I have created twice the output of music as a solo artist and I still get to do it, everyday, in this day in age the industry has changed so much and I see a lot of artists fall away over the years and I am very happy to be active and in the position I am in”.
Australians have been treated to the magic of your solo material and now we can relive the glory days with Emperor. Punters around during the glory days will especially find the night incredible “I hope so, we’ve had a lot of great experiences playing – in particular since we’ve played Anthems… in its entirety, there is just such a natural flow to that album, there will be no element of surprise with our live shows [Laughs] – but it is a very atmospheric album which I think is what fans who grew up on the album associated with it, it has this otherworldly flow. And I think it’s our responsibility here to not surprise but to relive that atmosphere with an audience”.
Emperor arrive in Australia soon for the following shows:
April 2 – Metro, Sydney
April 3 – 170 Russell, Melbourne (SOLD OUT!!)
April 5 – 170 Russell, Melbourne