Prior to EMPEROR's performance at the recent French festival Hellfest, vocalist Ihsahn spoke with Jorge Fretes of Spain's GoetiaMedia.com. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether, given the fact that the group hasn't recorded an album since 2001, he considers EMPEROR to be "nostalgic":
Ihsahn: "I would argue that so many of the headliners you see on festivals these days, it's basically nostalgia music. A huge percentage. I think that it's really a phenomenon of the times we live in. We are a band [who] came through before Facebook and all the stuff where things happen so quickly. There was still time for people to invest and attach to and collect with an artist. Now, I see my kids — they don't listen to albums or follow artists. They have playlists. It's like, 'This week it's that. This week's it's that.' It's really, really hard, I think, for younger artists to build that kind of sustainable connection. That's why you see that the bigger festivals and the big headliners, like KISS or JUDAS PRIEST, are from a time where people actually developed a real relationship to the songs."
On whether he thinks people will tire of EMPEROR if they don't release new music:
Ihsahn: "I guess both yes and no. Not by any comparison, but when I see IRON MAIDEN, I don't get tired of hearing [the classics]. They even joke about it from [the] stage — 'Okay, I'm sorry, we're going to play some new songs, but we'll play some old songs later.' It's not necessarily the quality of the music — it's just that if people have a similar relationship to some of the songs that we did early on that I have to some of my favorite bands, if you see them live every second year and get to hear those songs loud, would it be boring? It is what it is. This is kind of the powers of the market, if you will. The way I see it now, I have my solo career — I've been releasing seven solo albums now, so I've been doing that for far more than I've done EMPEROR, and I've played this festival and so many other festivals as a solo artist. Sometimes, I'm up [high] on the bill, and sometimes on the middle of the bill with my solo stuff. In the beginning, I was thinking, 'I'm doing all this new stuff. Why [are] people so nostalgic about all this old stuff?' Now, [I realize] I'm from Norway. I play extreme music. I get to do both. I'll just shut up and count my blessings. I've traveled around the world playing my music — my new music, my old music — and I see for some reason, people have developed a relationship in a similar that I have to [my favorite artists]. It's humbling. If people are bored with it, don't see the show. It's a rock show. It's not a big deal."
On whether he considers black metal to be stale:
Ihsahn: "I'm not doing music that people now associate to be black metal, because now, it's kind of a formula. It's even a very strong formula. I would say rather early on in the whole black metal scene, it became like the fashion police of black metal and what you were 'supposed' to do. To me, that has always been the antithesis of black metal. If I would make albums or music to a formula that other people dictate, how is the spirit of black metal ever going to enter that? Isn't black metal all this, 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law' — isn't that the whole fucking point of it? For me, when I express the type of vocals that I do, and there are distorted guitars, and there's often dark subjects, in my mind or in the creative space I draw inspiration from, the core element of why I've been doing this for 30 years, it's still the same. For me, I'm still doing black metal. It comes from the same source, but I'm not trying to copy someone else's idea of what it's supposed to sound like. For me, black metal is an attitude, an atmosphere... it's a certain state of mind, a certain emotional connection [and] energy... For me, the whole 'What do you think of think of the current state of the black metal scene?', I don't know. I don't care. It's a very selfish and probably very arrogant thing, but I just love doing what I do. I don't care what other people do."
Ihsahn: "We played here in 2014, and we played right after BEHEMOTH, who basically put on a show that was everything we could have dreamed of in '93. They put on an amazing show. It's so dark, and it's so... the essence of black metal. The makeup, the costumes, everything. As an interesting observation, it was kind of cool to go onstage and perform the entire 'In The Nightside Eclipse' in jeans and t-shirt and still conjure up the energy. One thing doesn't exclude the other."
EMPEROR's next live performance will take place in August at the Czech Republic's Brutal Assault festival.