Interview with Emperor members, Samoth, Ihsahn and Tchort.
Done by Bård fucking Eithun

Stephen O'Malley gave me the honour of letting me speak in this excellent rag and I thought it would be interesting doing some "journalistic piece or art" again. Anyway, I decided to make a mega-in-depth-chaos deathcult-interview (!) with my former band Emperor I chose this band particularly because it would be the biggest challenge for me ever, interviewing this band as I still look on myself as a part of this very band, but I still ought to maintain a bit of objectivity when doing this interview. As I told Samoth (who by the way don't do any justice to his pseudonym "The Lord of Silence" in this 'view) before conducting the interview, I feel rather stupid asking many of the questions as I know the answers so very fucking well, but I suppose many of you morons out there haven't got a clue about anything in particular, so why not let you share the whore story with us? Conversations with Samoth was done in total imprisonment while conversations with Ihsahn and Alver were done in a total freedom (so to speak). May we all die in a nuclear-war...

...First off Ihsahn, from being a person that (interview-wise) stood more in the background in the band, you have now become more official and are probably the leading "spokesman" for the band at the moment. Is this a conscious move after Samoth's imprisonment or is it a "hidden desire" to be an official person?
..."As the number of interviews increased, it was necessary to help Samoth out with all the work interviews really takes. Having a fax machine at my office, this resulted in me getting many interviews from Century Media in the USA, which was a very quick solution. After Samoth's imprisonment most of the interviews have been done either by fax, phone or journalists have come to see me. So, it was the most practical thing to do, leaving this tome, even though I do not like doing interviews, but I know this is a part of the game, so I guess I better stick to it"

...It's no secret that the situation in the Emperor-camp the last years have been less that stabile. Do you feel now that finally the band is getting back to it's feet and how would you analyse the career for Emperor (from the beginning and 'till today)? Have Emperor been on the top or is the highlight yet to come?
..."There should be no doubt that we have been through alot of difficulties during the recent years. We have been disturbed by unpleasant confrontations such as delays, imprisonment and some serious line-up difficulties. Anyway, we are far too powerful and proud to be stopped by these happenings. Confrontations are but a challenge to those who have strength, will and honour. I and Ihsahn are as we always have been and always will be, the creative core (the mind-source) of Emperor. I don't even think the thought of ever giving this all up have crossed our minds. We have through these rather silent years been working hard to get the band back on its feet, and I feel we finally managed to do so. In the beginning of '95 we were finally able to establish a line-up which we had faith in. We were then able to properly fulfil the music, which I and Ihsahn had been composing all the way since autumn of '93. Put it into life so to speak. But yet again a change was to be made. Just recently, our drummer, a rather obscure character named Mefisto, departed from the band. It was due to personal problems within the band. Luckily we found a replacement without any further delays. The ex-drummer of Enslaved, Trym, is playing with us now. Even though he's only been playing with us for a short period, we have faith in this line-up, as everything seem to work out fine so far. Trym is an easy-going person to work with and are willing to put a lot of dedication, time and effort in the band. And most of all, he's one hell of a drummer, I feel we have been progressing a lot during these hard times, both as a band and as separate individuals. I don't think we have reached the top yet, whatever or wherever that is. We set no limit to our creativity, and have a great plan for the future" Samoth says, while Ihsahn would like to add: "Considering all the trouble we have had since we started Emperor I think it has been well worth the effort, as I think we have reached quite far already. We are kind of getting used to having lot of trouble with the band, and through the seven years I and Samoth have been working together we have learned that it all gets harder for each step we take"

..."Samoth" - The name in itself is starting to be some sort of legend in the underground now. You are not any longer a new-comer to the scene but more like an grand-master of the scene now. How do you view your activities from the beginning and until today; starting with Xerasia/Thou Shalt Suffer and to band like Arcturus, Satyricon, Gorgoroth, Zyklon-B, your label Nocturnal Art and last but not least Emperor? Are you satisfied with what you're achieved so far?
..."It's very interesting to look back on all this. So much has happened since I first entered the scene. I remember back in the end of '89, when I first started to compose music in the extreme way. There were hardly any bands in Norway then, and no big scene at all, but it was on the rise. I remember being all excited and enthusiastic when I received an answer to the first letter I sent of to Euronymous. It was almost like a "kick-off" for me. I got more and more contacts within the underground scene, and truly worshiped this kind of brutal & extreme music. In the beginning of '90 I got my first band together (I had been playing in several bands before as well. but this was the first band I formed myself, out of my own ideas and creativity). We are at the very beginning called Dark Device, which later, for some stupid reason, were to be called Xerasia. In the end of 1990 we recorded out first official studio-demo (under the band-name Embryonic) called "the Land of the Lost Souls". We got pretty good feedback on the product. I still find the demo listenable. Not that I could care for having it re-released or something, but it was pretty good back then. And I must say, our music abilities even back the was better than lot's of all these so-called black metal bands that pop-up these days. A lot of these new bands really lack of talent. There is too many who think that a black metal image will give them talent or at least recognition. Well, Xerasia/Embryonic later turned into being the more well-known Thou Shalt Suffer. We were getting more and more serious, and started to set real goals for what we were doing, as we realized that it was through music we wanted to express ourselves. With Thou Shalt Suffer we recorded one 7"ep and one studio-demo, both in '91. For each release we got one step further into the dark. During the summer of '91 I felt I wanted to express myself in a even more extreme way. I started to compose music outside Thou Shalt Suffer, and this was when the Emperor-era began. I and Ihsahn rehearsed in a couple of on tape. We contacted Mortiis, which immediately got interested, and Emperor were formed. And as far as Emperor's history goes, the rest should already be well-known information. After all the arrests in '93 we had a huge downfall with the band, mostly due to that you, our drummer and friend Faust, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Later sentenced to 14 years in prison. Hellhammer joined the band, something which didn't work out at all. We hardly played or accomplished anything of any big importance. I felt I had to do something. I once meet up with Satyr, and were then offered to join Satyricon, who were just about to release their "Dark Medieval Times" album, as a session member for planed concerts and so on. I later ended up as being a permanent member, and did put quite some time and effort in the band. Later I participated in the recording on the "The Shadowthrone" album, as a second guitarist as well as a bass-player. This was in the summer of '94. Earlier that same year I joined forces with Gorgoroth, but only on a session basis, as a bass-player. I went up to Bergen and recorded the "Pentagram" album with them, and I also did quite a few gigs with them later that year. Also one in Germany. I did not put that much time into my involvement with Gorgoroth. As for Arcturus, I only did play with them for a shorter period, but still I managed to be a part of the "Constellation" mini-cd. I was very much located in Oslo in '94, and as both Satyricon and Arcturus, as well as other, were sharing the same rehearsal-place, plus that Arcturus needed a guitarist, then they found it natural to ask me I guess. I was bloody living in that stinking rehearsal-place at times. I had to leave both Satyricon and Gorgoroth due to my imprisonment. I left Arcturus on a much earlier basis, as I never felt any true belonging in that band. My involvement with Burzum goes back to '92. The result of this was the "Aske" mini-album, the destruction of Skjold church into pile of ashes, and a two year long prison sentence. Anyway, these are experiences and memories I would not be without. Zyklon-B was just a short of a "in-a-hurry" project. I had this concept lurking in my mind for a while. I got Frost in on it. We had a few rehearsals and entered studio. The outcome was the "Blood Must Be Shed" mini-album. The recording session finished a few months before I had to go to prison. I guess one of the reasons why we did this all in a kind of hurry, was that I wanted to have something to be released while being imprisoned. I personally think that the mini-album didn't turn out as good as it could have been, especially not the production wise, but generally I'm satisfied. The response has been great, even though there have been quite a few misunderstandings concerning the concept. A lot of people tend to believe that it's some sort of nazi/racist band, something which it's not. It's more like the soundtrack to the downfall of the machine-like humanity, with no values nor decency left, made out in an extreme apocalyptic-related expression. It's also a fist in the face of today's "true & evil" black metal bands, and an attempt to perform death metal for what it is, without being ashamed for the moniker "death metal". A lot of people within the black metal scene today has made it out to be a prejudice that if you use the term "death metal", then you automatically are trendy, a looser, a wimp, or whatever. Zyklon-B is in a way more for the concept, at least for me personally, than for the music. As far as my label goes, everything is going fine, even though I'm still being imprisoned. Our fourth release just came out. It's the legendary "Anno Domini" recording by the Hungarian black Metal cult, Tormentor, officially put out as a full length CD (a limited-LP picture disc version is later to be released). I always liked the idea of running my own label, but didn't succeed to establish one before in '94. That your we did two 7"ep's which were the Emperor "As the Shadows Rise" ep (sold out!), and the Ildjarn-Nidhogg "Norse" ep, from which we have a few copies left. The Arcturus "Constellation" mini-CD (limited to 500x) came out in January '95, and was sold out in a couple of months. Since then I have been working on the Tormentor release. It took quite some time, as I have been inside prison most of this time. And that can be very limiting in ways. Anyway, we succeeded, and accomplished what we strived before. We are now trying to get the label properly established, so that we can worn in a more professional basis. We're also starting up a mail-order service during the summer. My plan is to make Nocturnal Art my full-time job. We will not yet sign any new band. We are now negotiating with Tormentor on the matter of releasing their debut '88 demo "The 7th Day of Doom" as a CD. Tormentor have also been reformed, and have expressed an interest in continuing a co-operation between us. We also plan to release the "Into the Woods of Belial" demo '91 & "Open the Mysteries of Your Creation" 7"ep '91 of Thou Shalt Suffer on CD. This one will hopefully feature one unreleased bonus track as well. My wife Nebelhexe (who should be well-known for her musical entity Aghast and the publication Horde of Hagalaz) has some plans for a new musical project, which should be of a primal folkish kind. If this comes to realization, then we hope to release it through Nocturnal Art Production. And just recently I have been discussing with Snorre on releasing new Thorns material. Whether or not this will happen all depends on his spaced-out mind, and of course difficulties that might occur due to his rather long prison sentence. The thought of publishing written material has also crossed my mind. Yes, I would say I'm pretty satisfied with what I have achieved so far. By the age of 21 I have been participating in seven albums, a couple of 7"ep's and several demo tapes.
I have also developed and experienced a lot through these times. I'm now getting towards the age of 22 and have yet a lot of goals to achieve and experience."

...The crimes have been very central in Emperor's history, and I would find it interesting to ask both Ihsahn and Samoth if they think the crimes the (ex)Emperor-members have been convicted for, in any way have helped on the sales for the various Emperor-items existing around, or if it's just a minor detail...
Ihsahn answers that "I believe all the things that happened in Norway gave the whole black metal scene a lot of publicity and Emperor, being one of the front bands, also got its share of promotion. Yet, I believe it is Emperors as a band and our creations that have been the key to our "success". The media institutions were in the beginning most interested in the "crimes", but as I am doing a lot of interviews these days, I see that they get more and more interested in the music. And I do also believe the music is the main interest among our fans as well". Samoth agrees and ends "It's not at all fair to say that our popularity and status as a recognized band only is due to our involvement in all these rather controversial crimes. There is much more to Emperor than church-burning and murder. I feel that media maybe has focused a little bit to much on the crimes, instead of the artistic aspects of black metal. We have a very deep and complex artistic concept, and are first of all a strong musical entity. I guess all this media hysteria led to an earlier attraction of the whole thing. So yes, it maybe helped out on the sales and interests in the beginning. But sooner or later the masses would have discovered it is for what we channel throughout the art as whole. It's not like we are some incompetent brainless band with no talent, which just had to do a lot of weird stuff to get famous.

...Ihsahn, since you took over the band Thou Shalt Suffer (after Samoth left), you have totally changed the music and the concept of the band. What made you do this, was it the longing for doing something different and will we ever have the pleasure of seeing TSS's debut-album (seems like it's gonna take time)? What can you tell the readers about today's TSS?
..."I wanted to keep on doing TSS alone after Samoth left. Much because I need to do something all by myself, without anyone else's point of view interfering with my ideas. As time passed and the work with Emperor increased, TSS did not get my main attention for a while. Though, once now and then I got time to work on the material, and it has progressed and changed a lot over the last three years. Lately I have been working quite alot with TSS, as I plan to record the album soon as I start up my own studio. So, if things go as planed this will happen early next year. And then the "Satane Imperio Consecratio" will take you away in an orchestral blast".

...Even though both Ihsahn and Samoth prefer interviews to concentrate on the musical side of Emperor I' still find it interesting to ask Samoth if it frustrate him being imprisoned now when Emperor finally got a steady line-up again, or if it's just a necessity doing time? Any thoughts upon your sentence and why you got sentenced?
..."A necessity? I don't have a much of a choice do I? It's of course annoying to be able to play with the band, but that's not my main fustration I would say. I'm just glad we managed to pull the band back together before I went in, and that Ihsahn & the rest of the horde is doing all that they can to keep the band alive. As for my sentence. There have been a few misunderstandings concerning it, due to misleading information, or simply just lack of information. So I'll do a brief summary. I was arrested in the autumn '93, and were charged with one arson assault on a church. I was at an early point released from custody, and had to wait until the summer of '94 before getting my case on trail. I was sentenced to 16 months of participating in this arson-assault (which took place in mid-September Anno 1992). The police government made an appeal, as the outcome of my trial was not to their satisfactory. My case had to go into Supreme court, where I was sentenced to two years. And just for the information, in Norway you "only" have to serve 2/3 parts of the sentence inside a prison. Time spent in custody is also being pulled-off. So, in my case, I will be out on a parole after 15 month. I was imprisoned in late March '95, which means I only have until July '96 left to serve. I'm doing my time in a so-called open prison, which is more easy-going compared to a ordinary highly secured prison. This allowed me, to some extent, to keep my activities going. The conditions and treatment are also better. Anyway, a prison is a prison, no matter how good the conditions and treatment might be. Your freedom is stolen, and you are caught up in the system as one can be. But still, I think I will look back on this as a valuable experience. Being in prison makes you think alot and I feel that I have learned more about both myself, and life in general. I have no regrets for what I did. Concerning my present view on church-burning. I still stand by the concept of it, but whether or not it should continue is another issue. WE have proven our point a long time ago, and there is no point to prove it further on. The symbolic value is gone, even the shock-effect is gone. The common people do nothing but laugh at the whole thing, and the christians are only getting more close. To say that you want to wipe out christianity by burning all the churches is an utopia. The christian morals and dogmas are so deeply rooted into the system as a whole. This should not be misunderstood as I'm saying that we should give up "kampen mot hvitekrist"", not at all, but there is also other ways to fight the enemy, which in the long run, can be more effective. I believe we must go a step further on. I personally think that a continuation of the church-burnings is more destructive then beneficial, to us. We have marked ourselves in history. All these incidents will probably go down into the history books. So let it be written that it was done by a strong group of anti-christians youth, who went to the most extreme and shocked the sheep-like society with a strong symbolic act (like it originally was), rather then some incidents done by pseudo-evil 14 year old kids emerging from some musical trend (which it later turned out to be). Doing it for no deeper meaning than to show off. But it's not like I burst into tears when another church goes up in flames".

...What many Emperor-fans truly wonder is at what time Emperor at the earliest can except recording anything new again?
Ihsahn tells us " We plan on recording the next Emperor album during the autumn next year, soon after Samoth's release. Samoth adds that "The next album will feature only new enchanting soundscapes, mixed with extreme speed and intensity. We also have plans of doing a maxi single (12") together with the album. This one will most likely feature a new version of the ultimate black metal opus "Inno a Satana", in a classical version".

...About Candlelight, do you feel they fully stand behind you and will you still be on this label for further releases?
Samoth answers that: "As any other label, they have both positive and negative aspects, But I guess we have had our share of negativity. As a whole, we are satisfied. A lot of things could have been done better, but I know they have been putting a lot of effort and money in the band. I guess they have earned a great deal of money because of us as well. Candlelight organized some good licensing deals through Modern Invasion (Australia/New Zealand), Toy's Factory (Japan) and Century Media/Black (USA). We are very satisfied with the work Century Black has done. We were a bit skeptical in the beginning, but later turned out they did a great job promotion our musical and artistic expression. WE all at least do one more album on Candlelight Records, as that's what were are signed for. Whether or not we will resign them all depends on our next album, or what kind of other offers we might get. First of all, we are concentrating on the next album, which will for sure be out through Candlelight Records".

..."In the Nightside Eclipse" has now been out quite some time. How do you look on the album now after its release? Did the finished product live up to your expectations and do you think the great amount of positive critic on the album is well-deserved or is there things that could have been a whole lot different?
..."There will always be things that you want to do better" Ihsahn claims and continue: "That is why you keep on doing what you do, trying to progress. This is the case with "..nightside.." as well. There are things that could have been better, but considering that this record was done two years ago, and knowing that we can try making the next album more perfect, I am in general very satisfied with this album. It is very much EMPEROR, as it contains songs from different levels of our development, and is, I believe, as respectable debut album". Samoth reveals that "I'm still listening to the album with great pride, and are still very satisfied with it. The album is a result of many years of musical developments. There are of course always things you would like to have done differently when you have distanced yourself from a product. As a whole I'm very pleased with the outcome of the album, both musical-, visual-, and concept-wise. I absolutely think that the great amount of positive critic we have received on the album is well-deserved. Off the second generation black metal bands, which came to exist in the beginning of the 90's, Emperor's "In the Nightside Eclipse" has ended up being one of the best, if not the best, selling black metal albums. It will stand as a great monument in the history of black metal":

...Although the trend is turning towards a more "viking/pagan/dark/barbaric" orientated type of style (did anyone mention the word "parody" here?/Bård), Emperor still maintain the "black fucking metal" attitude. Do you think that Emperor stands above any trends and would you even consider the thought that maybe Emperor was a leading factor for the black metal-trend becoming so huge?
Samoth opens: "Emperor's work are indeed of very dark nature, but whether or not we are to be labelled as "black fucking metal" is another issue. I think our demo, "Wrath of the Tyrant"", and our attitude back then, fits the moniker "black fucking metal". I feel that we have developed into being a more "aristocratic" type of black metal band. Darkthrone is such a band I would consider to be black fucking metal, both musically and attitude-wise. Black metal is an unique concept that goes very deep into those who are seriously involved with it, but I believe there are many different aspects within the whole black metal genre. As for the "viking/pagan/dark/barbaric" themes. These are also subjects that are cherished with our emperium, but are made out in a personal expression (or in a desperate attempt of being "original"/Bård). We definitely stand above present trend, and we also stand above the whole scene in general. There is so much stupidity and ignorance within the scene these days. It all comes down to that it has become such a trend. A lot of mysticism is gone, not to forget the quality. The scene is constantly being infected with new bands, which totally lack of talent, intelligence and individual creativity, both music- and concept-wise. I guess it is no big secret that Emperor was one of the leading factors for black metal becoming so huge, but we did nor create a trend. We created a strong individual expression, and became one of the "role-models" to copy from, instead of an inspiration to do something out of their own individual creativity. But then again, the "gray-masses" have never really been well-known for having a large brain-capacity. this is not only a fact within the black metal scene, but in any scene where a trend emerges. To us, black metal is a form of art, and should therefore be created and performed with heart and soul". Ihsahn explains further: "Being one of the elite black metal bands, I believe Emperor is to set the trends rather that following them. We have developed a quite complex concept with Emperor, which we intend to stand by. I must say that Emperor has to some degree grown out of the typical underground scene, which is developing in viking/pagan/dark/barbaric-styles as you say, and Emperor is, like some of the other elite bands, working more on an individual basis. We proceed doing our things independent of what bands might do or think".

...Then there's the issue of the two abandoned members, namely Hellhammer and Tchort. Do you view Hellhammer's departure to be a finished chapter now and what was the sole reason for the Tchort's departure?
..."I believe we agreed quite quickly on that decision, and we are still in contact once in a while" Ihsahn tells about Hellhammer, while Samoth continue: "Tchort became too distant, both personally and geographically. He ended almost being a non-existing member of the band, so we parted. We had been aware of Alver's existence for a long time, and wanted to try him out. He has now been a permanent member in Emperor since February/March '95. He is very dedicated to what we are doing.

...So, who's this mysterious new creature of Emperor then? Alver drops by for a chat and tells: "I have played in a couple of bands (with basically the same people) but this isn't really anything to mention I think as we never released anything. You are probably the only person that heard the tape we did in '92 (or whenever it was). Frost (now in Satyricon) where in the same band (and so were you). Screaming fucking agony! What exactly made me the knew bass player in Emperor is because Tchort lives far away. Anyways, when I met Ihsahn and Samoth we found that we got along great and a short while later I tried out for the job. It worked to their satisfaction and so here we are. Kind of strange to play again as I almost didn't play at all for 2 years, but that rusty feel vanished sooner then I thought". Alver would also like to add that "Hopefully I bring new impulses (blood) into the band. However, Samoth and Ihsahn will always be the centre of the creation /and lyrics). What I would like to see with Emperor is that the band gets as big as we deserve. To do a tour, more albums and thus inflict upon the world thoughts, visions and musical journey in the darkside that we all love so much. I'm not a preacher, but people are getting more and more open for the kind of thoughts and symbolism that we live by, so if we can feed the furnace of black metal, nothing would be better".

...Each member of Emperor has his own philosophy, but what's Emperor's philosophy. I mean, what does the band stand for, what does it represent?
..."Emperor represent what is written in the lyrics and the atmospheres of our music. We involve our philosophies and thoughts in symbolic ways throughout the whole empire of the nightside landscapes" Ihsahn explains while Samoth continue: "Our musical entity is based upon thoughts, emotions and atmospheres. Emperor is a manifestation of journeys through vast nightside landscapes, and the inner nightshades of the soul. Emperor treasures those values that lays within us and the era we long for".

...So, where does the mini-album stand in all this? How do you look on the mini-lp today? Do you still listen to it and do you think it was a worthy beginning for the Emperor-era as a start?
..."Yes, I'm still listening to the mini-album at times and still appreciate it" Samoth says and continue: "There's no doubt that it was a worthy beginning for the band. I still consider the "Wrath of the Tyrant" demo to be worthy product as well, and I guess it was this recording who was the real beginning of the Emperor-era".

...Considering your lyrics, how would you describe them and do they have any "hidden messages" or are they just straight-forward? Do you look on music and lyrics as two different things or is it a whole?
..."They are very symbolic and contains metaphors to the ideologies and thoughts we have and wish to express", Ihsahn says, while Samoth wish to deepen it and says: "We take our inspiration from the idealistic fantasies of our dark nature. Often influenced through associations to Norwegian nature, as this is visually in common with those pantheons of our artistic expressions. The lyrics reveal echoes of a forgotten past of strength, pride and victory, journeys through the grim wilderness of our medieval-like fantasy-realms, departure of mortal existence - the dark shadow beyond this world, egoistic and imperious thoughts, emotions for the dark nature, who truly ensoul our creations. Our music is to us a complex concept, though, it is our personal relations to this that makes it complete, which for the listener might take it defuse while reading the lyrics. Hopefully the music together with the lyrics and the right mind and emotions can give the listener clearer insight in what the source of the whole creation. The events are laid to an empire in the nightside eclipse. The Pantheon is the spirit world of the howling wolves and mighty castles in surroundings of majestic nature that we dream and long for. It is an idealistic description of the perfect world including all those emotional and atmospheric aspects that we treasure within the very deepest of our souls. Our lyrics does not include too much "hidden messages". What's the point in hiding messages, when you can freely spawn them out? But I wouldn't exactly call them straight-toward lyrics either. They demand some thinking and imagining outside what's actually written. The "..Nightside.." lyrics are rather old now, and I feel that a lot of them could have been expressed lot better. Of course the music and the lyrics are two different things, but it's important to make it as a whole".

...For each release, Emperor have had an incredible development. Will the development still find place in further releases or do you feel you have found "your style" now?
..."We have definitely found our style, but we set no limits to our creativity. The progression of Emperor will always bear evidence of development towards a even more powerful and mighty expression, on a personal level with the basis in the black metal spirit" Samoth says. Ihsahn though would like to add that: "It is important to keep Emperor sounding and feeling as Emperor. The whole thing has now become some complex and personal, that drastic changes would be only destructive to the band"

...Lastly, what do you think you can achieve, and what do you want to achieve with Emperor?
..."We have still a strong potential, and we can get much further both music-wise and in popularity. And I wish to go as far as possible" Ihsahn ends.