Emperor’s Ihsahn: “I Think Particularly Black Metal Has Gone Gray”


Ihsahn has been out with Emperor for a series of reunion shows this year and spoke with Noisey of the experience, among other things. One such topic was the changing perception of metal, of which Ihsahn offered the following take:

“I think particularly black metal has gone gray like many other metal subgenres or like music in general, really. You start out new as a phenomenon, and there gradually becomes different directions in that. Some people do something new, and then some people copy it, and it becomes watered down. It becomes gray. A lot of people involved in this genre originally do a lot of other interesting stuff. The genre itself has changed, but I think extreme music – it’s more a matter of the whole music industry having changed. That’s kind of the biggest thing if you take black metal now and then.

For us being here now against being there then, I guess our whole career is built on this kind of mystique almost. People didn’t know shit about us. We were just crazy Norwegians from a place that most people hadn’t heard of doing this extreme music in this strange makeup. [Laughs] So people had absolutely no clue. Whereas today you get in touch with the biggest stars on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Nothing is private. It’s very bad times to be kind of a mysterious black metal artist, I guess. It’d be very hard to build that kind of niche again if you were a young band starting out today. [Laughs]”

Those hoping the live reunion in support of the 20th anniversary of “In The Nightside Eclipse” would stoke some creative embers will be left in the cold though. When asked if new music or a full-fledged reunion was in the works, Ihsahn offered:

“Not at all. Not at all. I couldn’t really see the point. I don’t think that would be something that would feel natural and feel creative, and that’s not meant to disrespect the other guys that I play with. But if you listen to the music that Samoth does now, there’s quite a big difference between what he does and what I do. I think, musically, we can come together and perform the stuff that we did when those musical differences were constructive.

If it was up to me, Emperor now would sound like my solo stuff. Not that I would ever call it Emperor because then it wouldn’t be that as it would be compromised. For me it would just be a different logo on the front because for me in the way I want to express myself in metal now, that’s what I already do. To make an Emperor album, I’m sure financially speaking, it would be tempting.

It’s a well-known brand, and you could probably do a lot of things promotion wise with it, but at the same time, it’s the fact that we’ve maintained, and the fact that we’ve been uncompromising. I think both with Emperor and the stuff we’ve done outside of Emperor, I’m very conscious about that mutual agreement with my listeners who pick up my album and make this possible. I don’t want to trick myself, and I don’t want to screw them either. So every time I make an album I honestly try to do my absolute best, and I don’t think I do my best if I start thinking about what would people want and what would people expect of me or this or that.

If we did that with Emperor or outside of Emperor, people would smell the dishonesty in that. It’s not really an ego trip, either. Of course it is very egotistical and selfish of me in a very good way of just doing exactly what I want, but at the same time I think that is the most honest way of doing this. If people want to make music that people expect to have and what the market wants, that’s kind of a different genre and a different industry. [Laughs]

People who want Emperor to get back together, I’m not sure if they know what they’re asking for. What kind of Emperor album would it be? Would it be something we could honestly do in 2014 or 2015? It would be easy for us to make an album that sounded like something from back in the day in the vein of Eclipse or Anthems or whatever, but who would actually want that? It would be pointless, and in the end I think people respect it.

It’s like when you get older and some people start wishing “Oh, I wish I was young again.” It’s not gonna happen, but it’s a nice thought. But at the same time, if you were young again, you wouldn’t want to experience all that crap all over again either way. [Laughs] It’s kind of like that, and I honestly think that it creates a bit of trust between us as artists and the audience.”

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