EMPEROR... one of my favourite bands ever!! And they were there, in Strasbourg, on the 2nd of April 1999, on the No Mercy Festival part 3! I had to interview them, which is what I did with Trym! Interview done with Christophe from Metal Spirit... that is why it's a bit messy!
You’ve just released your new album, 'IX Equilibrium'...Can you tell us more about it?
Well, on this recording, we went to a local studio with an old friend of ours. He played in the pre-EMPEROR a long time ago, and he knew our music, and it's nice to work with him, because he understands our music, he knew what kind of sound we were looking for. We always try to get a sound as good as possible. There's no point making music if people can't listen to what you're playing! So, on this album, we tried to make more guitar basis, and to get the guitars and the vocals cleaner, the drums clear, so that you can hear everything much better. And I think it's not so different from the 'Anthems' album. The music is quite similar I think, there are more catchy guitar riffs on the new album, and more strange things I suppose, but basically, the album...The music is not that strange compared to the 'Anthems' album, but the sound is much better, the sound has improved and we had a lot of time in the studios. We could stay as long as we wanted to stay, so we just kept on doing our stuff til' everything was just like we wanted it.
Are you proud that EMPEROR are now respected, considered like gods?
Yeah, of course! This is what we've tried out. When we started out, we wanted to sell a lot of records, but basically, play the music we want, and EMPEROR has always been doing that. We made what we wanted, no matter if people say "it's too commercial". We focus on the music basically, and if people like it, it's good for us! We try to make good music for ourselves, and if everyone else likes it, it's good!
You also released the 'EMPEROR versus THORNS' album. What does the album contain, and why did you do it?
Well, Satyr from Moonfog Productions wanted to do this Split with THORNS and EMPEROR, he asked if we wanted to do it. I really liked the THORNS album, the old THORNS songs demo. Basically, we just did a cover of THORNS, and made some remixes of old EMPEROR stuff. And we also made an intro, and it's completely not in the MPEROR spirit as you can see back in time. This is something new, but you can hear the EMPEROR spirit! It's more techno-thing and computer stuff in the new things, and that's quite an experimental album compared to everything else we had out. Of course we wanted to make something different on that album!
Why did Alver leave the band?
Actually, because of several personal things and stuff. He had no time to rehearse the material with us, and if he was supposed to record on the new album, he had to rehearse much more, and he hadn't the time, because he works and he needs some more private time, except from playing. He needed some time off, and that's why he couldn't play on the new album and on the tour, because he couldn't rehearse that much. So he couldn't play the new stuff!
And who's the new bass player?
He's a session live musician, maybe he'll play on the new album, I don't know. He's really really good at bass, he played DREAM THEATER and stuff like that, so he's very technical, very easy to learn, and that's very good for us, because we needed a guy very fast. He was doing the job very good I think!
What do you think explains your success? The fact that you're a good band, or what hapened in 92-93?
Well, if I look at the beginning of our career, when all the bad things happened, we did not sell as much albums as we're doing now. So, now we just do music, and we're selling more albums than ever! So I think, of course, the fact that all these things happened in that area made a push for us. People noticed us because we were doing extreme things, but nowadays, I don't think people are connecting EMPEROR to like dead stuff...People are prepared to listen to our music, and I think people like our music more than what we've done in the past!
You also appeared on a lot of tribute albums. Why? And are you gonna record some more covers?
Yeah, actually, we just did the MAYHEM tribute right now! And I think, I like to cover old bands that I had always been connected with, and really like. And it's an honour to play bands like BATHORY or MERCYFUL FATE, which is one of the greatest bands since Metal started. For us, it's a good opportunity to play another music, but still to honour the musicians that made that music!
It's very rare to see EMPEROR on tour, why?
I think...we have a lot of offers to play all over the place, we could play every day if we wanted, but there are persons in the band who don't like to travel on a tour so much, and prefer to be home and make music instead of being on tour. But if we got it, if we want to get some more people, we've got to tour, and the fans deserve it, because they expect us to play! I like to play live, I could play live every day! But...it's personal problems. Some members don't like to travel that much, so...
Isn't it a problem for Ihsahn to play both in PECCATUM and EMPEROR every evening?
No, no! That's not a problem at all!
It's only the second time you're playing in France! Are you anxious about tonight's gig?
Well, I hope the crowd is good! The last time we played in France was a festival with CREMATORY, and I was fucked up, because on that festival, we had to take our stuff down, and put the new stuff in, and we didn't play until 2 or 3 o'clock in the night, and people were so tired! I hope it will be good. I don't know if we're prepared to do that tour now, but I'm looking for it! It's...one day, you're home, and the next day you're in France!
But there's only one show in France!
Yeah...I mean, there should be more dates on the tour! Since we're just doing 11 dates, maybe one is enough...I was hoping we could do one in Marseille and one in Paris, but like...I don't know these places, never went to! It looks good here, the stage looks good, there are lots of people banging! I'm satisfied!
And Charmand Grimloch? Is he gonna stay full time in the band, or...
He's just a session live member. He's permanent live member, because he'll probably do all the live as long as he wants, I guess. That's for the bass player as well, he'll probably play the bass in the future as long as he wants.
But will they help you in the studio or in the composition?
Yeah, maybe! On the 'IX Equilibrium', Ihsahn did the bass playing, but if the new bass player can add some new things...Why shouldn't he do it? It's better for us!
About this tour, what do you think of the bill?
MORBID ANGEL is one of my favourite bands ever, so...It's the 4th offer we've got to tour with them! On the 3 other tours, we had to say “no”, because we hadn't chance, and that was very bad! But finally, I'm looking forward to see them play and meet them! They're one of my favourite ever! IMPALED NAZARENE, I think it's cool they do what they do, it's not getting to me that much. They do their own stuff, and that's good they are doing it, they're not doing commercial things or whatever. They stand for what they stand, and I respect them! THE CROWN, I just heard like 2 songs...LIMBONIC ART, I really like! They're one of the best and original Black Metal bands nowadays. And so for PECCATUM. That's something different from EMPEROR, but you can hear some EMPEROR roots. There's one song that could be an EMPEROR song, and there's one on the new EMPEROR that could be a PECCATUM song, so...I like all the bands. There's no band I dislike. It will be a good tour!
Could we say that you, LIMBONIC ART and PECCATUM are a sort of family sharing the same bus, the same dressing room...
Yeah, we're all friends! We've been on tour with LIMBONIC ART before, and we know those guys for a very long time, and we see them at home, and we're on tour! And PECCATUM are friends living in the neighbourhood, Ihsahn is playing there, and all the members are playing in the same rehearsal room as we're doing...we are a sort of family, you can say that!
What do you think about fanzines?
I think it's necessary! If there hadn't been fanzines, we wouldn't be here today. Because people read magazines and fanzines. That's a fact! Sometimes, it can be a pain in the ass if they're writing stuff which is not true! And they're just like writing some kind of shit, and we're asking "who said that?"...But basically, it's necessary to have fanzines to spread the music as well as all kind of medias...
Do you still have relations with Faust?
He can come out of the prison every third week, and then he sees us, comes to us when we're rehearsing. We are good friends, and Samoth especially has a very good relation with him. We're hanging together when he has the time, but since he's in prison, that's not that often! He's a friend!
Is it hard for him to be jailed?
After 8 years, I think he's getting used to it (laughs)! With what he's done, he’s lost 8 years. It's harder for him to get out, meet people in the city... That's strange, because he's not used to it!
And what's your final word?
I would just give imperial regards to all the fans that like us, buy the album, come to the gigs and support us! Vive la France!